What exactly is Persistent Marine Debris, and why is it important?
Persistent: 1. Refusing to give up or let go; persevering obstinately. This definition has a negative connotation, and in this case, very true.
Marine: 1. Of or pertaining to the sea
Debris: 1. The scattered remains of something broken or destroyed; ruins.
So, working backwards to develop the definition; persistent marine debris is something broken or destroyed, located in the sea, that refuses to go away. This defines trash, not readily biodegradable, including metals, plastics, and rubber products. Metals and rubber products are serious problems but once in the marine environment, they sink to the bottom and pose less of a threat than the third item our list, plastics.
The introduction of synthetic materials, or "plastics", is one of the most important technological advancements for modern society. The superior qualities of these synthetic materials make them an almost universal substitute for natural materials. However, it is these qualities - light weight, strength, durability, and low cost - which make plastics so prevalent and potentially damaging in the marine environment. This debris degrades coastal areas and injures or kills many marine animals including commercial fish and shellfish, birds, marine mammals, and sea turtles. It also interferes with vessel operations and safety by entangling propulsion and steering systems and may damage machinery by blocking seawater intakes.