A crab holds a cotton swab it found on a beach. 

Danger to Animals

Ocean plastic kills millions of marine animals each year. Nearly 700 species have been affected by it. This includes endangered species.

Some are strangled by fishing nets or six‑pack rings. Sea turtles gulp down plastic bags. They think the plastic is a jellyfish. Seabirds have died with stomachs full of plastic. Microplastic, or tiny plastic pieces, are also a threat to animals.

A sea turtle gets ready to eat a plastic cup. 

Seabirds scoop up floating plastic pellets. The pellets look like fish eggs. Parent birds spit up the plastic as they feed their young. But plastic does not provide energy or nutrients. It kills the animals.

In crabs, microplastics remain in the gut much longer than food does. The crabs eat. But they don’t get enough nutrition to survive.

Hyenas find plastic in a landfill in Ethiopia, a country in Africa.

Looking for the Source

To keep plastic out of our ocean, we need to know how it’s getting there. We produce a lot of plastic. But we don’t have a good plan for dealing with plastic garbage.

Resource economist Ted Siegler says the plastic problem can be solved. “This isn’t a problem where we don’t know what the solution is,” he says.

Siegler has two main suggestions. First, design new plastics and new plastic products that are biodegradable or recyclable.

Second, build better waste removal systems. Have companies pay a penny on every pound of plastic they manufacture. Use that money to build better garbage systems.