The problem with plastic is that is never just goes away. Since 1950, more than 6 billion tons of plastic have been discarded, and according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, just nine percent of that has been recycled. The average American generates more than 270 pounds of plastic trash per year — one of the highest rates in the world — and every nine minutes, plastic weighing as much as a blue whale (about 300,000 pounds) ends up in the ocean, where it breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces of microplastic particles.

A recent study by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute documented that microplastic is disturbingly common throughout Monterey Bay, from the ocean’s surface to the seafloor, and may be entering marine food webs, both at the surface and in the deep. Most of that microplastic came from

consumer products like plastic water bottles, take-out food containers and product packaging — the everyday stuff we buy, use once and throw away.

A leading proponent for a cleaner future, the Monterey Bay Aquarium continues to encourage policies to reduce plastic production, from California’s successful ballot referendum banning single-use carryout bags to the Straws On Request bill requiring restaurants to only provide straws to people who specifically ask for them. Currently, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is urging support for the California Plastic Pollution Reduction Act (SB 54), which sets a target of reducing 75 percent of packaging waste—and the most polluting single-use plastic products—by 2030. And it sets criteria to make sure that what remains is increasingly recycled or composted. Learn more about the California Plastic Pollution Reduction Act and the Aquarium’s efforts to tackle ocean plastic pollution.

Pictured above, microplastic particles are being eaten by animals such as pelagic red crabs and incorporated into marine food webs. News and photo courtesy of Monterey Bay Aquarium.