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Solid materials, typically waste, that has found its way to the marine environment is called marine debris. It is known to be the cause of injuries and deaths of numerous marine animals and birds, either because they become entangled in it or they mistake it for prey and eat it.

At least 267 different species are known to have suffered from entanglement or ingestion of marine debris including seabirds, turtles, seals, sea lions, whales and fish. The scale of contamination of the marine environment by plastic debris is vast. It is found floating in all the world's oceans, everywhere from polar region to the equator.

The world’s largest landfill can be found floating between Hawaii and San Francisco. Wind and sea currents carry marine debris from all over the world to what is now known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This “landfill” is estimated to be twice the size of Texas and thousands of pounds of our discarded trash, mostly plastics.

It would take you a week to boat across the million of tons of garbage strewn across the "Patch." The garbage reaches depths of nearly 100 feet in some places.

The garbage Patch has a great effect on the ecosystems on and around the Hawaiian Islands. Scientists find many seabird skeletons on the Hawaiian Islands whose "gut content is just filled with plastic." As the larger animals and marine life eat the smaller animals, the plastic eventually ends up in the human food supply, too.

The reason that turtles ingest marine debris is not known with certainty. It has been suggested that debris, such as plastic bags, look similar to, and are mistaken for jellyfish. Studies on dead turtles reported ingestion of marine debris in 79.6% of the turtles that were examined from the Western Mediterranean (Tomas et al. 2002), 60.5% of turtles in Southern Brazil (Bugoni et al. 2001) and 56% of turtles in Florida (Bjordal et al. 1994).

According to a 2006 report from the U.N. Environment Programme, every pound of plankton in the central Pacific Ocean is offset by about 6 pounds of litter. The report adds that every square mile of ocean is home to nearly 50,000 pieces of litter, much of which tends to harm or kill wildlife that either ingests the plastic or gets trapped in discarded netting.

According to the EPA, paper bags generate 70 percent more air pollution and 50 times more water pollution than plastic bags.

The average American uses 300 to 700 plastic bags per year. If everyone in the United States tied their annual consumption of plastic bags together in a giant chain, the chain would reach around the Earth 760 times!

Five industries account for 68 percent of all energy used in the industrial sector. Pulp and paper accounts for 6 percent of energy usage making it the fourth largest contributor.

Somewhere between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. (Estimated cost to retailers is $4 billion.)

Californians throw away 294,000,000 pounds of plastic bags every year, or 147,000 tons - enough waste to circle the planet over 250 times.

In the State of California, 600 plastic bags are thrown away every second.

86% of all known species of sea turtles have had reported problems of entanglement or ingestion of marine debris.

In the North Pacific Gyre, the mass of plastic is 6 times greater than the mass of plankton.

If Californians cut their plastic bag waste in half, it would save over two thousand barrels of oil a day (over 800,000 barrels a year) and keep 73,000 tons of rubbish out of our landfills.

In 1999, 14 million trees were cut to produce the 10 billion paper grocery bags used by Americans.
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