The plastic in the ocean doesn't exactly present as the floating waves of detritus that the phrase "garbage patch" evokes. In fact, some argue that patch is something of a misnomer, and that a phrase like soup would be a better fitting—if emotionally disturbing—image. The patch isn't generally filled with giant chunks of plastic like fully formed yogurt cups, old disposable sporks, or bottles of water. It's mostly made up of the microbeads and plastic fibers that get washed out to sea when we take a shower or do laundry, along with the bits of plastic that break off of larger items. Unlike paper or cotton, plastic never actually breaks down, returning back to its chemical components so it can be reused in the biological processes that fuel life on Earth. Instead, plastic just breaks into smaller and smaller pieces.