Have you ever thought about how much trash you throw away every day? Maybe you’ve been conscious of avoiding certain plastic products, like water bottles or shopping bags, but it’s so easy for us to throw away trash without thinking where it might end up. Just because trash is out of sight, doesn’t mean it disappears. Rather, all of it adds up in our oceans, landfills, forests, and more, resulting in major environmental problems.
That’s exactly why scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) created LITTERBASE, a tool that makes it easy for the general public to visualize the distribution of trash in the world. The team pulled together results from 1,237 scientific studies on two revealing maps to show exactly where marine litter is distributed around the world.
The first map combines the findings of 591 publications to show the distribution of garbage and microplastics around the world. Scary, right?
The second map draws on 751 publications to show wildlife interactions with litter. According to LITTERBASE, information cited by The Maritime Executive found that 34 percent of species ingest trash, 31 percent colonize it, and 30 percent get tangled up or trapped in trash.
If you are noticing the blank areas on the map, researchers note that those aren’t necessarily clean areas, but rather they don’t have the information yet for those spaces. Because there is so much research being done on marine litter, LITTERBASE hopes to simplify the issue by compiling all of the data, making it easier for policy makers, authorities, and the public to easily get the information.
The sobering reality is that the plastic waste we generate takes an enormous toll on the world around us. For example, 8.8 million tons of plastic make their way into the world’s oceans every year. An estimated 80 percent of this comes from land-based sources. Around 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine animals die each year from ingesting plastic, while turtles now consume twice as much plastic as they did 25 years ago. A number of “trash islands” now exist in our oceans, the most well-known of which is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch … that has already grown twice as large as the entire state of Texas. All in all, 700 marine species are at risk of extinction due to the risk of ingesting or becoming entangled in our plastic waste.
For more information on the devastating effects our trash is having on the planet, you can check out our articles: Is it Really Worth the Convenience? How Plastic is Harming Animals, the Planet and Us; and 5 Ways Plastic Pollution Impacts Animals on Land.
While these facts might be hard to swallow, we can’t forget that we all play a role in creating this waste … so we can also play a role in helping to reduce it. Starting with a few simple swaps, we can drastically reduce the amount of plastic trash we produce every day. If you’re ready to ditch plastic and help clean up the world’s oceans, join One Green Planet’s #CrushPlastic campaign.
Let’s #CrushPlastic! Click the graphic below for more information.
In-text image source: LITTERBASE
Image source: Tom Grundy/Shutterstock