Trash Travels

“I never leave my trash behind when I go to the beach, so how is there so much to pick up during beach cleanups?” A beach cleanup volunteer asks one of LMC’s conservation team members.

Marine debris removed during an LMC beach cleanup

“That’s a great question,” our volunteer replies, holding up a small yellow bottle with the words “Vinagre” etched into the side. “See this? It’s a vinegar bottle from Haiti and has floated over 740 miles. A lot of the trash you see here doesn’t actually originate from Florida.”

A vinegar bottle from Haiti removed from Juno Beach, Florida

Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s conservation department learns a lot from the trash picked up off our beaches, and often, it’s origin.  Following every beach and underwater cleanup, LMC’s conservation team analyzes and records the collected trash in a database. By keeping a record of the trash removed from our marine environment, LMC can develop pollution prevention initiatives to stop this debris from entering the ocean in the first place. 

Ocean Currents Carry Debris

Image result for ocean currents
Credit: Canuckguy (talk) and many others (see File history) derivative work (distributed via Wikimedia Commons )

An estimated 80% of all trash in the ocean comes from the land. Once trash enters the ocean, the ocean’s currents act like a giant conveyor belt, washing debris from one shore and depositing it on another.

One example of how currents carry marine debris all over the world are strangely shaped plastic “containers” that were found during beach cleanups.

About two years ago, LMC’s team noticed one of these mystery items while sorting through beach cleanup debris. A few months later, we found another one, and then another. We wondered what they were and where they were coming from.


After further investigation and a phone call to FWC, we discovered that these items were, in fact, octopus traps originating from West Africa. Incredibly, they journeyed over 4,300 miles to wash up on our shores. To date, five have been found on the shores of Juno Beach, Florida by LMC.


Marine debris not only accumulates on beaches worldwide, but a large majority of it is also trapped in ocean gyres. A gyre is defined as, “a large system of rotating ocean currents,” and often these gyres accumulate trash. Garbage patches currently exist in all 5 gyres in the ocean. In fact, the garbage patch in the Pacific gyre is estimated to be 617,763 square miles wide, twice the size of Texas.  

Source: Harvard University

Marine debris is a global issue requiring global solutions. Ultimately, these solutions depend on each and every one of us making small, everyday changes.

How Can You Help?

  • Reduce single-use plastics such as plastic water bottles, plastic cups, plastic straws, plastic bags, and single-use plastic utensils.
  • Spread the word. Educate others on the issue of marine debris and how they can help!
  • Join your nearest beach cleanup!