This story is part of a series on ocean plastics.
The oceans are teeming with plastic trash: shopping bags, water bottles, old toothbrushes, and much more. By 2020, there will bemore plastic than fish in marine waters.
Over time, this debris begins to break into near-microscopic particles. There may be51 trillion tiny plastic pieces scattered across the world’s oceans ― 500 times more than there are stars in the galaxy. Fish, unable to discern what’s plastic and what’s food, are eating this stuff. And humans, ever ravenous, eat fish ―lots of them.
One in four fish has plastic in its gut, according a recent study. Plastic particles have also been foundin oysters and mussels. If you eat a lot of shellfish, for example, you might be consuming11,000 pieces of plastic a year. The health effects of this areunknown.
To see how this cycle plays out, take a look through the storybook below:
Sources: NOAA(1)(2), NRDC, Columbia Earth Institute, EPA, Seeker, PLOS ONE, UN, University of California, NCBI, The Guardian.