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How Does Plastic End Up in the Ocean?

Even if you live hundreds of miles from the coast, the plastic you throw away could make its way into the ocean. Once in the ocean, plastic decomposes very slowly, breaking down into tiny pieces (microplastics) that can be incredibly damaging to ocean life. 80% of plastic in our ocean is from land – but where is it coming from?

There are three main ways the plastic we use every day ends up in the ocean:

How Does Plastic End Up in the Ocean?

1. Throwing plastic in the trash can when it could be recycled.

The plastic you put in the trash can ends up in a landfill. When the trash is being transported to a landfill, plastic is often blown away because it's so lightweight. Eventually, it can come into the river and the ocean.

2. Trash dropped on the street doesn't stay there.

Rainwater and wind carry plastic waste into streams and rivers and through drains. Drains lead to the ocean! Careless and improper waste disposal is also profoundly influencing the plastic surge in our ocean.

3. Products that go down the drain.

Many of the products we use daily are flushed down toilets, including wet wipes, cotton buds, and sanitary products. Microfibers (more about that later) are even released into waterways when we wash our clothes in the washing machine. They are too small to be filtered out by wastewater plants and end up being consumed by small species from the ocean.

Plastic production and consumption are predicted to double over the next ten years.

That means that if we don't do something now, we could be facing 250 million metric tons in the ocean in less than ten years. It's very intimidating! We can't stand by and watch the impacts of this tidal wave of plastic heading our way.


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