Trash and other objects that end up in the ocean are called marine debris. You might be surprised to learn what ends up in the ocean and Great Lakes.
What is marine debris?
Have you ever been to the beach and noticed litter, like plastic bottles or foam take-out containers on the sand?
Or maybe you’ve been to a river or bay where there’s a car tire or bags stuck in the mud on the shore?
Or a bunch of deflated balloons that say Happy Birthday floating in the water?
All of that junk in the water, or on the shoreline, is considered marine debris. It's anything solid and man-made in the ocean or Great Lakes that is not supposed to be there.
And anything people use every day can become marine debris if they don't dispose of it properly. And I mean anything!
The most common items we find when we do shoreline cleanups are plastics.
But we also find rubber, cloth, glass, metal, and paper litter.
Sometimes, the debris is so tiny, like a plastic microbead from your face wash, that you can barely see it in the water.
Marine debris is more than just trash in the ocean.
Sometimes fishers lose their gear, like fishing traps, nets, or fishing line, and it continues to drift through the water, catching animals for a long time. We call that derelict fishing gear, and it's marine debris.
Have you ever seen an old boat left behind on a shoreline? Abandoned and derelict vessels are also marine debris.
So let's review. Anything we use every day can become marine debris if we don't dispose of it properly or if it goes into the water by accident.
Marine debris can be very small, or can be very big, and anything in between.
But most importantly, marine debris is one of the biggest pollution problems facing the world's oceans and waterways today.