Learn more about what garbage patches are, their impacts on the ocean, and what we can do about them.
Discover the Issue
What is marine debris?
Our oceans are filled with items that do not belong there. Huge amounts of consumer plastics, metals, rubber, paper, textiles, derelict fishing gear, vessels, and other lost or discarded items enter the marine environment every day, making marine debris one of the most widespread pollution problems facing the world's ocean and waterways.
Marine debris is defined as any persistent solid material that is manufactured or processed and directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally, disposed of or abandoned into the marine environment or the Great Lakes. It is a global problem, and it is an everyday problem. Marine debris is a threat to our environment, navigation safety, the economy, and potentially human safety and health.
Most of all, marine debris is preventable. Learn more about marine debris and find out how.
It is unclear where this statistic originated. It's frequently quoted in the press but doesn't appear often in scientific literature. A few times the results from the International Coastal Cleanup were cited as the source for these percentages; however if you take a look at the results from any given year, you will notice percentages differing from one place to another. Additionally, this event surveys primarily beach debris, and thus may overestimate land-based sources because of beachgoers’ litter. We know relatively little about what is lying on the ocean floor or suspended in the water column. Because of this we truly can't say what the land- and ocean-based percentages are with any certainty or accuracy. Just begin to think of all the debris types that sink (e.g., metal, dense plastics) in addition to all the ships on our ocean floor and you get the picture.