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Every year, about 300 billion pounds of plastic is produced around the world, and only a fraction is recycled. Where does the rest end up? Well, the majority ends up in landfills, but some finds its way into our oceans. Plastic is valued for its resistance to degradation, so its life span can be hundreds of years. When plastic reaches our oceans, it eventually breaks down due to the action of the sun, wind, and currents, into small, literally bite sized pieces that wildlife confuse with food. It's an easy mistake to make.

What YOU Can Do:
We're all responsible for this mess, and it will take all of us to stop it from getting worse. It's time to completely rethink how we as a society use (or abuse) plastic. Here are some things that you can do right now:

  • Every time you see litter, pick it up and dispose of it properly.
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - you've heard it before, but now you know what happens when you don't. Be conscious of all that you buy, and be sure to avoid products with excessive packaging, especially in disposable products.
  • Demand more and better recycling facilities in your area.
  • Take part in local stream, river and beach cleanups - or organize one yourself. Though these don't solve the problem, they are very effective at drawing attention to the greater problem offshore.
  • Bring your own - take your own reusable food containers, coffee mugs, napkins and utensils when you dine out or travel. If you are well equipped you'll be less likely to feed the landfill.
  • Be very conscious of your ecological footprint. Encourage change though your decisions and do no accept the current paradigm of use and waste.

The North Pacific Gyre
The North Pacific Gyre is a trash vortex and one of the most studied areas of plastic accumulation in our oceans. At its maximum the area can reach the size of Texas. It is made up of everything from tiny pieces of plastic debris to large ghost nets lost by the fishing industry.

As trash swirls through the world's oceans to a handful of vortexes like this, it leaves a trail of destruction along its path. Plastic is often mistaken for food and has been found inside marine life of all sizes, from whales to zooplankton. It has been directly blamed for the death of a wide range of animals including albatrosses and sea turtles. While massive trash like ghost nets can ensnare and trap thousands of creatures, there are concerns that even the smallest pieces of plastic may pose a problem , as plastic often accumulates in the digestive tract, many animals essentially choke on plastic intake. Others starve to death from a lack of nutrition despite a full stomach.

Click here to see Greenpeace's animation of the North Pacific Gyre.

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Americans toss out enough plastic forks, knives & spoons each year to circle the equator 300 times.

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When you get it to-go, to where does it go?

Click above to learn about the journey our trash takes out to sea.  This is an incredible animation of the North Pacific Gyre, a floating mass of garbage larger than the

state of Texas.

 

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