SEATTLE — Images of a whale found dead on a beach in Scotland have gone viral after more than 220 pounds of debris was found inside it.
The image is not the first of its kind, but it’s a reminder the oceans have a waste problem.
“The truth is, many organisms are dying because of plastic," said University of Washington assistant professor Jacqueline Padilla-Gamiño.
A study released Tuesday by scientists at UW explains that it's not only the marine life that is consuming plastic-- it's coral and plants, too.
As plastic decomposes, it breaks into smaller pieces, eventually turning into pieces of microplastics.
“What I say is 'think about the toothbrush your grandma used. That toothbrush is still somewhere in the environment,'” Padilla-Gamiño explained.
Padilla-Gamiño said the study of microplastics is an emerging science, but she believes the main pollutant in the ocean right now is plastic.
“In terms of understanding the risks to humans, we are just at the beginning,” she said.
She said while they research the impacts ocean plastics have on humans, images like the ones shared in Scotland should be a warning.
“In the big picture, it’s about how do we handle waste. I think that’s a really big issue, especially in the context of plastics,” Padilla-Gamiño.