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The Dirty Truth About Marine Debris: How Long Until It Disappears?

Photo by Brian Yurasits for Unsplash

Every day around 8 million pieces of plastic makes their way into our oceans, mostly from people that leave their trash behind at the beach.

Of all the items that make their way to the ocean daily, plastic bags represent one of the most common marine debris items found in the ocean. Leaving plastic behind at the beach can have enormous long-term consequences: it can take anywhere from 10 to 1,000 years for a plastic bag to decompose, depending on the conditions.

However, the main issue with plastic bags is that they are not biodegradable, meaning they will break down into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics. These tiny pieces can be ingested by marine life, causing harm to them and disrupting the food chain.

Unfortunately, many people are not aware of the immense consequences that come along with leaving trash behind at the beach. Another common item that people leave at beaches are plastic bottles. What most people do not know: it takes an estimated time of 450 years until a plastic bottle fully decomposes.

This is because the plastic that is used to make bottles is resistant to natural breakdown processes, which means they will be in the environment for a very long time. This represents an significant issue as marine life can mistake these bottles for food, causing them to ingest it which eventually leads to sickness or even death.

Even though most of us know that our oceans are being polluted by our garbarge constantly, the issue is only getting worse: Marine debris represents a major issue that not only affects the environment, but also the animals that must live in it.

Items that are left behind at after a long day at the beach such as plastic bags, bottles, fishing nets, and even cigratte butts end up in the ocean, and take an incredibly long time to decompose. Understanding the estimated decomposition rates of common marine debris items is crucial in raising awareness and creating action toward solving this problem.

Fishing nets are another common marine debris item, which can take up to 600 years to decompose. This represents a major issue as they cause entanglement and injury to animals living in the water such as turtles, whales and dolphins.

Unfortunately, cigarette butts are often overlooked as a source of marine debris, however, it is important to know that it can take 10 to 12 years for cigarette butts to decompose. When cigarette butts are discarded on the ground, they can wash into the ocean and cause harm to marine life. Besides, they also contain toxic chemicals that are likely to pollute the environment and harm marine life.

Another item which is often found in the oceans are plastic straws. Plastic straws can take up to 200 years to decompose, and such as plastic bags, they break down into microplastics which can be ingested by marine life and cause immense suffering.

Unfortunately, animals are the ones who must suffer under irresponsible human actions.

When looking at above mentioned figures, the estimated decomposition rates of common marine debris items is concerning, and highlights the need for action for all of us.

Therefore, it is important to reduce our reliance on single-use plastics and improve waste management practices to prevent these itmes from ending up in our oceans. We must understand, that recycling and properly disposing of waste are crucial steps everybody can take to prevent marine debris.

At the end of the day, it is our responsibility to ensure that our actions do not harm the environment and the animals that live in it.

It is also important to note, that we all have a role to play in protecting our oceans and animals, and by taking action, we can make a signifcant difference.

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