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A study of marine litter counts trash from Texas to Florida

marine litterMarine debris collected during a two-year studyCredit: Caitlin Wessel

Garbage, especially plastic, in the ocean and along the coastline is an economic, environmental, human, and aesthetic problem, causing serious problems for coastal communities throughout the world, including the Gulf of Mexico.

Researchers from the Dauphin Island Marine Laboratory and the Mission-Aransas National Estuary Reserve have teamed up for a two-year study to document the problem along the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico. Their findings are documented in Marine Pollution Bulletin,

From February 2015 to August 2017, researchers kept records of marine debris, which are washed out every month on the coastline at 12 different locations on nine barrier islands from the North Padre Island, Texas, to Santa Rosa, Florida. The cart was sorted by type, frequency and location.

The most shocking discovery was that 10 times more waste was washed out on the Texas coast than in any other state in the Persian Gulf during the year.

Most of the garbage, from 69 to 95 percent, was plastic. Plastic items included bottles and bottle caps, straws and pieces of plastic. Researchers have also indicated that more garbage is thrown onto the shore during the spring and summer. This may be because at this time more and more people are outside and on the water.

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