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Plastic on a beach near the ocean
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Ross: The ocean is dying, and plastic is the culprit

Plastic continues to plague the world's oceans. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)

Ian Urbina has a unique beat for The New York Times — he spends his time on ships. Big ships, small ships, cargo ships, fishing vessels: He sails all over the world, immersing himself in the culture of what he calls the “Outlaw Ocean,” a salty stew of pirates, slavers and unregulated fishing.\

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And it’s in trouble.

“The ocean is dying, for sure,” said Urbina.

Dying! He says for 80 percent of the world’s fisheries, there will be a time when the nets come up empty. You can blame the usual suspects – climate change and overfishing — but the fastest-growing problem is plastic.

“By 2050 they’re predicting there will be more plastic in the ocean, by weight, than fish — there’s no debate on that,” he notes.

We can do something about the plastic bags, bottles, and straws. But there’s also the  hidden stuff nobody thinks about: The stuff you can’t see, like the plastic particles released from synthetic fabrics every time we wash our clothes.

And that’s without even mentioning the particles that are released every time you drive.

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“One of the largest contributors of micro plastic into the coastal waters of the U.S. on the West Coast are car tires,” said Urbina.

When car tires wear down it’s because those tiny particles rub off, and get swept into the storm drains that lead to the ocean, and could eventually lead to your fork.

It seems unfair — such a big planet, and yet the stuff we try to throw away refuses to disappear!

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