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Expert diver uncovers upsetting trend while cleaning up ocean garbage: 'It's always so sad to see'

"It makes me wonder…"

"It makes me wonder."

Photo Credit: TikTok

Nothing ruins time in the ocean like coming across someone else's trash.

It's why Hawaii-based professional diver Kayleigh Grant (@mermaid.kayleigh) does weekly trash roundups, where she and fellow divers patrol their local waters, removing litter.

@mermaid.kayleigh Another week of picking up trash out of the ocean. Its always so sad to see a mix of items that have been in the sea for a long time & items that are extremely recent. It makes me wonder… are we progressing in this fight against single use plastic or is it only getting worse? In what ways do you reduce your use of plastics? Comment tips below! 👇🏼 @KaimanaOceanSafari 🌊🗑️ #ocean #cleanuptheocean #singleuseplastic #marinedebris #saveourseas ♬ Belonging - Muted

And in a recent video, Kayleigh noticed a concerning pattern: a surging rate of single-use plastics.

"It's always so sad to see items that have been in the sea for a long time & items that are extremely recent," she captioned the video. "It makes me wonder…are we progressing in this fight against single use plastic or is it only getting worse?"

In the video, she shows her team pulling numerous plastic items from the ocean, including a bag of bread, parts of buckets, a plastic water bottle, styrofoam, and other unidentifiable debris.

"That's so sad," one person commented.

"They shouldn't be making things [out] of styrofoam anymore," another wrote.

According to a study from the journal Science Advances, as of 2015, the world had produced nearly 7,000 million tons of plastic waste since the 1950s. While plastic was originally developed as a cheap alternative to more sustainable products, such as wood and metals, its enormous proliferation has backfired.

When plastic garbage enters an environment, it begins slowly breaking down. But plastic never fully goes away…it just gets smaller and smaller. And as it does, it releases toxins.

According to research from Consumer Reports, as well as numerous studies from the National Library of Medicine, plastic contains several toxins believed to have deadly health impacts for humans, animals, and microorganisms. These toxins have been linked to cancer, reproductive issues, neurological disorders, hormone disruption, and much more.

Physically, plastic poses a threat as well. As it breaks down, Kayleigh explains, it's often "ingested by fish and other marine life. When marine life ingests plastic, it can cause blockages and death."

"I'm always picking up trash at [my local] beach," one person commented. "It makes me so sad that some people don't know how fragile our ocean is."

Sadly, this isn't limited to marine life; species from elephants to bears have died as a result of plastic, with their stomachs crammed with the material.

It's easy to blame individuals for the problem — and indeed, littering is never the right option — but the onus of reducing plastic production falls on the companies that manufacture it. 

"The plastic manufacturers are truly to blame," one commenter wrote.

Consumers can choose to engage with sustainable, circular brands as a way to reduce plastic demand, as well as ditch single-use plastics such as water bottles in favor of reusable items.  

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