Meanwhile, the scope of the global problem of ocean plastic is becoming clearer (and only more worrisome): The Great Pacific Garbage Patch—a swirling gyre of plastic debris between California and Hawaii—is apparently 16 times larger than we previously thought, and the waste is accumulating exponentially every year.

Ocean plastics are killing a variety of marine life, including coral reefs. Coral feed on algae, which rely on sunlight to survive. Plastics can block the sunlight, killing off algae and, therefore, coral. In addition, when the plastic comes in contact with the coral, it can cause small abrasions that leave it more susceptible to infection.

“The likelihood of disease increases from 4 percent to 89 percent when corals are in contact with plastic,” researchers wrote in a paper published in Science in January.

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