Given the vast scope of the problem of ocean pollution, comparing two individual factors that contribute to it is somewhat illusory. Both human waste (sewage) and discarded plastics impact the oceans in different ways. Human waste introduces bacteria into marine ecosystems that can be harmful both to marine life and to humans. Cruise ships are a major source of this type of pollution, dumping up to 200,000 gallons of raw sewage a week, though land sources such as sewage pumped into rivers are also a major cause. As sewage consists mainly of organic matter, at least it decomposes eventually; plastic does not. Ingested bits of plastic such as bottle caps and strips of plastic bags kill up to a million sea birds and four million fish a year. Focusing on plastics and human waste is only part of the problem, however, as oceans are also impacted by toxic chemicals that often find their way to the sea through rivers as well as marine-based activities such as shipping.
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