Plastic bags and plastic food containers or wrappers are the second- and third-most common items in global marine debris, according to a report released Feb. 25 by the Washington-based Ocean Conservancy.
Of the 43 items tracked by the nonprofit organization, six of the top eight items were made of plastic or are categories that were heavily plastic.
Cigarettes were the top item found and paper bags the fifth most common.
Calculations were made based on a global marine collection day in September at 6,485 sites in 104 countries, as well as 42 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. In all, 6.8 million pounds of trash were collected 400 pounds of debris for every mile of beach.
Plastic bags represented 12 percent or almost 1.38 million of 11.4 million items collected. Food wrappers and containers made up 8 percent; caps, 8 percent; plastic beverage bottles, 6 percent; straws and stirrers, 4 percent; and cups, plates, knives, forks and spoons, 4 percent.
The top eight items accounted for 75 percent of the litter, with cigarettes and filters accounting for 28 percent; paper bags, 5 percent; and glass bottles and beverage cans, 4 percent apiece.
Sadly, people keep dropping trash everywhere [that] it can reach the ocean, the report said. All readily fall from human hands and can be easily contained if disposed of properly. Humans have created the marine debris problem and humans must take responsibility for it.
Included among the group's six recommendations was that people reduce, reuse and recycle, since much of the plastic waste that ends up in the ocean is not truly necessary in the first place.
We can produce less packaging upfront and cut back on debris through recycling and the routine use of cloth grocery bags, the Ocean Conservancy report said.
The marine debris problem is solvable often through relatively simple measures, it emphasized.
Elected officials can make informed policy decisions; community leaders can tailor and expand recycling and other trash-reduction programs; corporate decision-makers can improve technology and reduce packaging; and individuals can recycle, reuse or properly dispose of trash.