Marine debris can be defined as “anything man-made and solid in the ocean that isn’t supposed to be there.” An estimated 8 million tons of plastic enters the ocean every year, and 80% of it comes from land-based sources. It can travel through storm drains and waterways many miles from the coastline before ending up in the ocean where the currents in the Pacific Gyre can trap it in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
A study has shown that by 2050 there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean, and all of that plastic is damaging the ocean ecosystem. The facts are shocking and the images of injured animals are difficult to view.
Everything I pick up has the potential to do harm. When I clean debris off of the beach, I know that I am helping marine creatures who could become entangled it, and I realize that I am preventing sea life from ingesting harmful plastics.
Every bit I remove is one less piece added to the vast amount of marine debris that already exists. Estimates of the amount of plastic in the oceans vary, and the exact size of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is unknown, but there is one thing I am certain about—an an ever-increasing amount of trash is washing up on the beaches where I walk.
If you would like to learn more, the trailer for the film A Plastic Ocean provides an impactful look at the seriousness of the problem. The short film Our Debris Filling the Sea offers an interesting overview, and the Trash Talk video series presents a kid-friendly introduction to the topic that is accessible and educational.