Marine debris and plastic pollution

photo: Christopher Pouget

Marine debris is often easy to recognize. How many times have you been enjoying a day at the beach and noticed debris, plastic and garbage of all shapes and sizes stuck between rocks or buried in the sand? Litter that enters the ocean from storm drains, blowing directly onto the beach, falling off (or disposed of from) marine vessels, and even through the sewer (i.e. face cleansers with microbeads), is enormous.

Marine debris, primarily plastic, can remain in the environment and impact wildlife, as it can take hundreds of years for plastic to break down. It can also cause greater problems during that breakdown process as the smaller the pieces the harder they are to recover and the more easily they can be ingested by even the smallest creature thinking it’s food. They can feel “full” without actually gaining any nutrients. Since the plastics come from humans there are many simple actions we can take to reduce plastics in our oceans, from reducing, reusing, recycling products that we use, to even refusing certain items in the first place.

Questions to think about:

  1. What is marine debris and where does it come from?
  2. What is the main threat of plastics in the ocean?
  3. How long does it take trash to decompose?
  4. What species are most impacted?
  5. What is the Pacific Garbage Patch? How big is it?
  6. What could humans do to help?

Check out these videos about plastic pollution from the Voices of the Salish Sea Youth Video Challenge!

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