All the garbage that we see washed up on our beaches is a result of human activities.
Most of it is from activities that happen far away from the ocean.
Think twice before you toss out that plastic bottle or drop that candy wrapper on the sidewalk. Litter often finds its way into sewers, storm drains and waterways, and then makes its way to the ocean.
Often, vacationers who travel waterways and visit beaches also discard litter that ends up in the ocean.
And, there are even cases where garbage is dumped directly into the ocean by industry (illegally, or by accident).
Once garbage reaches open water, ocean currents move it over the ocean. The garbage can travel for a few metres, or thousands of kilometres, before being washed up on shore.
When near land, waves push garbage towards the beach. And then, the changing of the tides leaves the garbage on the shore.
The garbage that we see on our beaches can be a mix of our own waste and "international" junk, which has drifted far from its source country.
Read about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch on page 2
What Do We Find on Our Shores?
Any number of waste items can show up in the garbage along a shoreline. Garbage can be as large as a couch and as small as a straw.
- Most of it is non-biodegradable material, such as plastic, metal and glass.
- Plastic in the form of bags, bottles and Styrofoam containers are usually the biggest problem.
Are you concerned about garbage on the beach?
See what you can do to help!
Q: How much garbage is floating around in our oceans?
A: We can't be sure because it is very hard to track the amount of waste bobbing around in vast open waters. Some researchers estimate that 10% of all garbage ends up in the ocean. That's 10 million tonnes a year!
Q: Who is affected by the garbage in our oceans?
A: Marine creatures and sea birds suffer from the litter that ends up in our oceans. Fish, turtles, seals, birds and other animals can ingest pieces of waste that cannot be digested. When they eat it, it can make them very sick or even kill them.
Q: Are we affected by garbage in the ocean?
A: Yes. Garbage such as batteries, electronics and auto parts can leak chemicals. These chemicals can find their way into our bodies. For example, harmful toxins that leak into the water can be absorbed by the fish that we eat.