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 June 10, 2013
Plastic Bags Litter Seafloor

 You know what's becoming more common than fish in the sea? Plastic bags.

Researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute surveyed underwater video footage. They saw that plastic bags have become ubiquitous on the seafloor off the U.S. West Coast---even as far away as Hawaii.

The institute's robot subs collected the videos over the last 22 years, mostly in and around Monterey Bay but also further afield. Technicians noted whenever it showed objects or animals.

The footage spanned shallow seafloors of 25 meters or so and areas nearly 4,000 meters deep. And in all too much of Monterey Bay, they found trash.

A full third of the trash was various types of plastic. The second most common object: metal cans. The rest of the trash was a mix of lost fishing equipment and rope, glass bottles, paper, cloth, even tires. The trash preferentially accumulates on steep, rocky slopes, perhaps because ocean currents drop it there.

And all that garbage is going to stick around. The microbes that could otherwise break down plastic bags or metal cans do not thrive in these deep, cold, dark waters. So remember, we may throw things away---but that doesn't mean that they go away.