A giant mass of floating debris swept out into the ocean by the Japanese tsunami could reach Hawaii within a year and the Pacific Northwest by 2013.
The US Navy's Seventh Fleet says that the size of the debris is so large it creates a hazard for shipping.Some estimates have placed it at as much as 2 million square kilometres, twice the size of Ontario.
According to modelling by Nikolai Maximenko and Jan Hafner at the International Pacific Research Center at the University of Hawaii, the trash could reach the Hawaii's main island by March 2013, before eventually washing ashore on the West Coast in 2014.
"In three years, the plume will reach the U.S. West Coast, dumping debris on Californian beaches and the beaches of British Columbia, Alaska and Baja California. The debris will then drift into the famous North Pacific garbage patch, where it will wander around and break into smaller and smaller pieces," they said.
Observers in the region have already seen whole buildings, boats and cars floating off the coast of Eastern Japan. They say that while storms will likely break up much of the debris, some items that float well , such as boats,could reach the US in tact.