U.S. flag An official website of the United States government.

dot gov icon Official websites use .gov

A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

https icon Secure websites use HTTPS

A small lock or https:// means you’ve safely connected to a .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Where Does Marine Debris Come From? (Part 2)

There are some sneaky ways that marine debris ends up in the ocean. Learn how trash gets there and where it comes from.



Where does marine debris come from?

Marine debris comes from many different sources and enters the ocean in many ways.

Intentional littering and dumping are a big cause of marine debris.

Sometimes the trash goes directly into the ocean, like when beachgoers don’t pick up after themselves.

Or sometimes, marine debris is indirectly generated in a city hundreds of miles from the ocean.

When someone litters on the street or parking lot, rainwater can move the trash into storm drains that empty into streams, rivers, and other bodies of water.

Or, the wind can blow it there. Those rivers and streams can eventually carry the trash to the ocean.

Improper or careless waste disposal is another big cause.

Have you ever seen an overflowing trash can, but for some reason, people keep putting trash there? Hello, marine debris!

Or someone throws a piece of plastic in the trash, when it should have been recycled?

Around the world, many people don't have access to proper waste disposal or recycling – but the trash keeps piling up, and it has to go somewhere.

It's not just here on land – marine debris comes from activities out on the water, too.

People on boats sometimes throw their trash overboard, and that’s against the law. Or, trash can accidentally fall, blow, or wash off of vessels into the water.

Sometimes fishers lose their fishing gear thanks to storms or passing vessels, too.

Once the debris gets to the ocean, it is very difficult to trace the exact source.

The bottom line is, marine debris comes from us. Humans are the source, and every single person has the power – and the responsibility – to prevent it.