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Ocean Trash Hotspots

March 19, 2018

Scientists tally up the burden of plastic trash on U.S. coastlines.

Transcript

Laysan albatross eye plastic lighters picked up during a beach cleanup, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Hawaiian Islands. (NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries)

Laysan albatross eye plastic lighters picked up during a beach cleanup, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Hawaiian Islands. (NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Curbing ocean trash. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The plastic trash we create every day often ends up in the ocean, only to be ingested by everything from the tiniest plankton to giant blue whales.

GEORGE LEONARD (Ocean Conservancy):

About 80% of the material that you find on beaches is plastic. And increasingly, scientists are worried about what that’s doing to marine life.

HIRSHON:

At the Sixth International Marine Debris Conference in San Diego, George Leonard, chief scientist of the Ocean Conservancy, reported that up to 1.8 billion pieces of plastic litter the U.S. coastline, with hotspots near highly populous Texas, San Francisco, and the mid-Atlantic region. But places that have enacted policies like bottle bills and plastic bag fees have significantly reduced coastal trash.

LEONARD:

If you increase value of plastic, even a very small amount, it turns out consumers respond in the way that’s good for the environment.

HIRSHON:

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.