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Your trash can get into the ocean, even if you live hundreds of miles away. But how?

Where does trash in the ocean come from?

NOAA's Ocean Today explains that marine debris can originate hundreds of miles from the ocean, but can all be traced back to human sources.
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NOAA's Ocean Today explains that marine debris can originate hundreds of miles from the ocean, but can all be traced back to human sources.

You could be contributing to the 14 billion pounds of trash that Sea Stewards estimates makes it into the ocean every year — even if you don’t live anywhere near the beach, experts say.

This trash contributes to marine debris in the ocean, which includes things such as litter, fishing gear and materials such as plastic, rubber and glass, and poses a threat to marine life and to human health, NOAA says.

And this harmful debris comes from a number of sources, a video from NOAA explains.

It can make its way into the ocean when beachgoers don’t pick up their trash, when boaters throw trash overboard or lose fishing gear, when trash is blown or washed off boats or through improper trash disposal, the video says.

Even if you live hundreds of miles from the ocean, your trash could still end up there.

That’s because wind or rain can send the trash into storm drains or streams, which eventually carry it into the ocean, according to the NOAA video.

Most of the debris on beaches is brought there by storm drains or sewers, NOAA says.

Once this debris gets to the ocean, marine life can eat it or become tangled in it, harming or even killing them, according to NOAA. Hundreds of thousands of seabirds, marine mammals and sea turtles die from eating plastic every year, according to Sea Stewards.

But marine debris isn’t just bad for marine life, it’s a problem for people, too.

Marine debris can damage boats and other watercraft and can make seafood dangerous to eat, NOAA says. It’s also a problem for coastal communities that rely on being a desirable destination for vacationers, NOAA says.

But the NOAA video says there are things everyone can do to help.

Even if you don’t live near the beach, limiting your waste and picking up trash you find on the street, in bodies of water or on the beach can help prevent marine debris from making its way to the ocean, NOAA says.

“Humans are the source and every single person has the power, and the responsibility, to prevent it,” the video says.

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Bailey Aldridge is a reporter covering real-time news in North and South Carolina. She has a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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