Researchers found five large accumulations of plastic waste in the ocean match with the five major "twists" of water circulation.

The study shows surface waters in the ocean may not be the final destination of plastic debris; the materials may be passing down to the marine food chain on the ocean floor, the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) said.

"Ocean currents carry plastic objects which split into smaller and smaller fragments due to solar radiation. Those little pieces of plastic, known as microplastics, can last hundreds of years and were detected in 88 [percent] of the ocean surface sampled during the Malaspina Expedition 2010," Andrés Cózar, a researcher from the University of Cadiz, said.

Plastic waste pollution has been shown to have a "global character." Researchers found the polyethylene and polypropylene in their samples obtained by the Malaspina Expedition. These polymers are used to manufacture products such as "bags, food and beverage containers, kitchen utensils and toys, among others," the Council said.

"These microplastics have an influence on the behavior and the food chain of marine organisms. On one hand, the tiny plastic fragments often accumulate contaminants that, if swallowed, can be passed to organisms during digestion; without forgetting the gastrointestinal obstructions, which are another of the most common problems with this type of waste. On the other hand, the abundance of floating plastic fragments allows many small organisms to sail on them and colonize places they could not access to previously. But probably, most of the impacts taking place due to plastic pollution in the oceans are not yet known," Cózar said.

The results show high concentrations of plastic occur in all of the subtropical gyres.

"Only a global expedition, such as the Malaspina Expedition, could achieve these results and evaluate the overall abundance of plastic pollution. The good news is that abundance is much lower than expected, but the pending challenge is to figure out where the rest of plastics entering the ocean is," CSIC researcher Carlos Duarte, coordinator of the Malaspina Expedition said.