Plastic Bag Found at the Bottom of World’s Deepest Ocean Trench

Plastic Bag Found at the Bottom of World’s Deepest Ocean Trench

Even one of the most remote places on Earth couldn’t hide from the scourge of plastic trash.


3 - 12


Biology, Conservation, Earth Science, Oceanography

NGS Resource Carousel Loading Logo
Loading ...
Leveled by
Selected text level

The Mariana Trench is in the Pacific Ocean. It is a giant underwater canyon. Far from land, the trench is the deepest point on Earth. It is almost 10,975 meters (36,000 feet) beneath the surface. That is more than seven miles underwater. You might think such a remote spot would be pollution free. You would be wrong.

Scientists have been researching ocean pollution. They studied a collection of underwater photos and videos. The scientists found a plastic bag in the trench. It proved how far and deep plastics pollution has spread.

Plastic makes up most ocean trash. Disposable products are the biggest problem. Such items are used once and thrown away. They make up almost 90 percent of plastics pollution. Plastic bags are one example. Straws and water bottles are others.

Another study about plastics pollution concerns ocean scientists as well. Plastic junk is harming marine life. For example, some animals get tangled in plastic. Others swallow it. This pollution can poison them.

Rivers Carry Plastic Into The Sea

New research shows plastic junk has spread everywhere. It also lasts for a long time. It may not break down for hundreds of years. Chemicals from plastics can poison ocean waters.

Environmental groups are teaching people about the danger. Earth Day events are giving extra attention to plastics pollution. Finding solutions is difficult, though.

Some plastic waste reaches oceans directly. Beach trash can blow into the water, for example. Ships might dump trash overboard. However, most plastics pollution comes from rivers. Rivers carry it from cities to the sea.

Plastic Has Reached Almost Everywhere

Once in the ocean, plastic trash often floats. It may form big patches. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch lays between California and Hawaii. It is the size of Texas. Fishing gear makes up most of it.

The Mariana Trench is a deep, dark place far from land. Scientists are just beginning to learn its secrets. However, they have found it is full of sea life. Coral grows there. Other species include jellyfish and octopus.

Finding the plastic bag in the trench alarmed scientists. It can only mean one thing. Plastics pollution has reached every corner of the globe. It shows the huge effect humans are having on the planet.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
Sarah Gibbens
Production Managers
Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Program Specialists
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
André Gabrielli, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

November 27, 2023

For information on user permissions, please read our Terms of Service. If you have questions about how to cite anything on our website in your project or classroom presentation, please contact your teacher. They will best know the preferred format. When you reach out to them, you will need the page title, URL, and the date you accessed the resource.


If a media asset is downloadable, a download button appears in the corner of the media viewer. If no button appears, you cannot download or save the media.


Text on this page is printable and can be used according to our Terms of Service.


Any interactives on this page can only be played while you are visiting our website. You cannot download interactives.

Related Resources