How Does Your Trash End Up in the Ocean?

Haley Martin

All the time, we see photos of plastic floating in the ocean and turtles trapped in six-pack rings. Do you ever wonder exactly how SO much plastic ends up in these places?

Well, even if you're landlocked like a lot of us (we're looking at you Austin and 90% of the rest of the continental United States!), it's especially easy to disconnect your own actions from the garbage islands accumulating right now out in the Pacific. But, to get to the heart of the matter, here's a not-so-radical idea: we are all responsible for the waste in the ocean––whether you live in Kansas or in Cabo!––because we all contribute to the conditions that help put it there.

Here's a few facts to help us understand how and why this is the case:

  1. Littering: When you drop your trash into the street, it doesn't stay there. Rainwater and wind push litter down drains, which, as we all know, lead to the rivers––and eventually––to our oceans.
  2. Landfills: Lightweight trash (i.e. plastic) in landfills is often swept up by the wind. This debris turns into more litter, which accumulates in drains, eventually making it's way to the ocean––again. Guess what? An easy way to prevent this from happening is by recycling plastic, or by avoiding it entirely––radical, we know, but true.
  3. Drains: By now, you know that a bunch of trash ends up in our drains, leading to ocean pollution. So, it should be obvious that a great deal of pollution is caused by items put directly into the drain––I'm talking to you directly wet wipe, pad, and polyester disposers––and because the microfibers from these items are too small to be filtered out by water systems, they end up in the ocean (mostly, very sadly, as fish food). And later––not kidding here––as our food. Not exactly the Circle of Life they were talking about in the Lion King.

So, in conclusion, who is responsible for marine plastic? It's the wind––what an SOB!

Just kidding, it is still mostly us. And we can definitely––and must––do something about it.

Information from WWF


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