Marine Debris and Plastics

Marine Debris

  • Americans generate 10.5 million tons of PLASTIC waste a year but recycle only 1 or 2 % of it.
  • An estimated 14 billion pounds of trash-most of it plastic -is dumped in the world’s oceans every year.
  • Plastic bags and other plastic garbage thrown into the ocean kill as many as 1 million marine animals and birds in the Pacific Ocean every
  • Work from the Algalita Foundation indicates there is six times more plastic than phytoplankton per weight and fifty times more plastic than zooplankton.
  • Over half this plastic is less than 60 mm- or a quarter inch. These tiny plants and animals are the base of the ocean food web, and animals consuming plankton from herring to whales are ingesting plastic.
  • The plastic doesn’t go away, it just gets smaller.
  • Approximately 70% of plastic sinks to the bottom where it sits like a time bomb, waiting to be assimilated.
  • Plastics absorb organic pollutants like toxic sponges, concentrating the poisons and finding their way into the foodchain, from fish to humans.
  • One study found Fulmars, ocean going birds that visit our waters, have over 30 pieces of plastic in their stomachs. A sea turtle found dead off Hawaii had over 1000 pieces of plastics in its intestines.
  • Hundreds of thousands of seabirds, sea turtles and marine mammals die from plastic ingestion each year.
  • Americans generate 10.5 million tons of plastic waste a year but recycle only 1 or 2 % of it.
  • Plastic bags and other plastic garbage thrown into the ocean kill as many as 1 million sea creatures every year

What You Can Do to Support a Healthy Ocean

  • Join Sea Stewards and our Partners Sea Scavenger Conservancy and the Surfrider Foundation in our Beach and Bay Clean ups including the California Coastal Clean Up Day
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle. Choose reusable items and use fewer disposable ones (e.g., bring your own reusable bags).
  •  Keep all pieces of fishing line, net, cigarette butts and other litter for proper disposal in trash containers.
  •   Pick it Up! Keep streets, sidewalks, parking lots, and storm drains free of garbage –our land and ocean are connected. In San Francisco, work at mitigating the source through advocating plastic reduction.  Learn how here.
  • Serve as an example to others. Get involved in beach cleanups through the Surfrider Foundation and other organizations in your area and encourage others to help keep the beaches and oceans clean.
  • Help Sea Stewards develop a local Marine Debris Clean Up Program in the San Francisco Bay