As if you needed another reason to hate ocean trash, it's now carrying invasive species to places they don't belong.
According to NatGeo, researchers began to notice that debris from the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami was washing up on U.S. shores after traveling across the Pacific Ocean. They started collecting a database of the debris and realized that Japanese marine species were hitching rides on these pieces of garbage.
Because plastic doesn't degrade, it gave some of these species homes in the open sea for up to six years.
The Washington Post reported that over 280 Japanese species were found on 600 pieces of trash over the course of a six-year study. One polystyrene and concrete dock alone carried nearly 100 species. Two-thirds of the discovered species were unknown to the American Pacific Coast.
The invasive starfish, slugs, oysters, barnacles, mussels and more will now have the opportunity to see if they can call the West Coast home.
If these invasive species can survive in their new habitat, the indigenous species could be in for a rough ride.
Another NatGeo article reported that invasive species usually flourish because they don't have natural predators in the area. They can also wipe out native species by eating them, competing with them for food, or bringing with them diseases that the native species can't fight.
Invasive species are a huge problem across the globe. LiveScience reported that 84 percent of all marine areas have invasive species and over half of those species are damaging to their new homes.
In the United States, 42 percent of already threatened and endangered species face a higher threat because of nearby invasive species, according to the Ocean Conservancy.
And the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration notes that once the invaders are there, it's almost impossible to get rid of them.
That's why many countries are trying preventive measures, according to NatGeo.
In the past, invasive species often hitchhiked in ship ballast water, which is used to help stabilize boats.
When water is drawn into the ship, it can contain small ocean species. When it's later emptied at the next port city, invasives are introduced to a new home.
NatGeo reports that now many governments require exchanges of ballast water to happen in the middle of the ocean or chemicals are added to the ballast water to kill invasive species.
It's disheartening to hear yet another way the garbage in our seas can be damaging the planet. But now that we know floating plastic can exchange species with different areas, countries will have to try to figure out how to combat that threat.