Try to spend a day not touching plastic and you find that plastic is everywhere: in cups, plates, packaging, toys, computers, phones, clothes, cars, bikes … the list goes on and on.  So where does the plastic go when we are done with it?  Some gets recycled, some goes to dumps, and some, unfortunately, ends up as litter on land and in the ocean.  How much plastic trash is in the ocean?  The short answer is: a lot.  Tons, in fact.  But there are very few scientific estimates of plastic waste.  Further, not every piece of plastic is the same: some pieces are big and some are too small to see.  It is important to determine the different kinds of plastic, as they can have very different impacts on wildlife and ocean health. 

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About this article

Summary of research
​Scientists detect the distribution of plastic waste around the world’s ocean.
Reading level
Scientific field
Key words
Scientific methods
Type of figure
AP Environmental science topics
IB Biology topics
Location of research
Scientist Affiliation
Publication date
July 2015

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