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Impact of Plastic Waste on Oceans, Beaches and the EnvironmentShare

Want to know how bad plastic litter is getting in our oceans? This article provides a "snapshot" of the harmful effects. Please read it and forward on to others. For up-to-date information on plastic waste, please visit our Newsroom.


We assume a few of you have heard about the "Texas-sized plastic island" off California's west coast...but how about the disturbing news of plastic beaches and plastic sand? Plastic is accumulating at an alarming rate in our oceans, wreaking havoc on wildlife, polluting our beaches and entering our food chain. Our addiction to use-and-toss items is one of the major causes of this growing problem.

As reported by National Geographic

The success of the convenient plastic bag has meant a dramatic increase in the amount of sacks found floating in the oceans where they choke, strangle, and starve wildlife and raft alien species around the world, according to David Barnes, a marine scientist with the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, England, who studies the impact of marine debris.

Barnes has said that plastic bags have gone "from being rare in the late 80s and early 90s to being almost everywhere from Spitsbergen 78 degrees North [latitude] to Falklands 51 degrees South [latitude], but I'll bet they'll be washing up in Antarctica within the decade."

Did you know?

  • • Plastic bags are among the top two items of debris found most often in coastal cleanups. (Ocean Conservancy)
  • • Plastic bags wrap around living corals, quickly "suffocating" and killing them. (U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
  • • Plastic pieces outweigh surface zooplankton in the Central North Pacific by a factor of 6 to 1. (Algalita Marine Research Foundation)
  • • Plastic pieces can attract and hold hydrophobic elements like PCB and DDT up to 1 million x background levels. As a result, floating plastic is like a poison pill. (Algalita Marine Research Foundation)
  • • Approximately 500 nautical miles off the California coast sits a growing "plastic island," a gargantuan patch of floating plastic trash held together by currents stretching across the northern Pacific almost as far as Japan. This "plastic island" is made up of about 7 billion pounds of plastic garbage, and measures about twice the size of Texas.
  • • Each year, enough trash—most of it plastic—floats down the Los Angeles River to fill the Rose Bowl two stories deep. (Los Angeles Times, "Altered Oceans")
  • • Of 500,000 albatross chicks born each year on Midway Atoll, about 200,000 die of starvation. Adult albatrosses mistake plastic trash for food and end up feeding it to their chicks. (L.A. Times)
  • • On a single day in 2007, nearly 400,000 volunteers around the world picked up more than 6 million pounds of trash. A majority of the items were single-use disposable plastic items, such as plastic bags and Styrofoam containers. (Ocean Conservancy International)
  • • Since water keeps the plastic cool and algae blocks ultraviolet rays, "every little piece of plastic manufactured in the past 50 years that made it into the ocean is still out there somewhere." (Research Triangle Institute)

For more information, visit our Newsroom.

What can you do? Help spread the word and do your part to eliminate wasteful consumption of plastics. Our reusable shopping bags, bottles and containers can help reduce your plastic impact!

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