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Oceans of Trash

Litter isn't just a problem in local parks and on sidewalks. It's also hurting the Earth's oceans.

Around the world, oceans are filling up with trash. The trash gets into the oceans when people litter. Many people throw their trash directly into the water.

Trash also gets thrown into rivers that flow into oceans. In fact, most ocean trash comes from rivers.

The biggest problem with ocean trash is that most of it is plastic.

Plastic that ends up in the oceans can stick around for a really long time. It can take up to 1,000 years for plastic to break down into smaller parts once it is thrown away.

Much of the plastic comes together to form large "trash patches" in the water. Scientists who study the oceans say one of these trash patches is about the size of Texas!

Danger to All

People don't see these trash patches very often. That's because the patches form in areas that are far away from land. But the patches still cause a big problem for both humans and wildlife.

Plastic and other junk that ends up in the ocean can wash up on beaches. This can be harmful to birds and other animals that live on the shore. Seagulls are one example. If plastic gets mixed in with the food that these birds eat, it can hurt their stomachs.

Humans can be affected by beach trash as well. Some plastic objects can have sharp or jagged edges. People who walk barefoot on the beach could cut themselves on trash hidden in the sand. Also, trash can carry germs that make people sick.

Plastic can be deadly for animals that live in the ocean. For example, turtles and seals think plastic bags floating in the ocean are jellyfish. The turtles and seals swallow the bags. That can cause the animals to choke, drown, or starve.

How to Help

What can people do to solve this problem? They can drink from reusable water bottles. They can use cloth grocery bags instead of plastic ones. People can also spend time picking up trash around beaches and rivers.

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