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A seagull pecks at a plastic bag on Jan. 30, 2017, in Venice Beach, California. Bruce Bennett / Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images

By Lorraine Chow

The world's plastic problem may seem vast and incalculable, but its footprint has actually been measured. In a sweeping 2015 study, researchers calculated that 9 billion tons of the material have been made, distributed and disposed in fewer than 70 years. That's an astonishing figure, but it's also one that's hard to picture. Perhaps a better way to illustrate the problem of plastics is by looking at the damage that can be caused by a single drinking straw.

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An Arctic tern entangled in fishing gear. Governor of Svalbard / Norwegian Polar Institute Facebook

A disturbing amount of plastic is building up in the once-pristine European Arctic.

According to a study from the Norwegian Polar Institute, "plastic in all sizes" can be found throughout the Norwegian Arctic and in the Svalbard islands, an archipelago between Norway's mainland and the North Pole that's also one of Earth's northernmost inhabited areas.

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Many tube-nosed seabirds, like this Tristram's storm petrel (Oceanodroma tristrami), eat plastic particles at sea because they mistake them for food. Photo credit: Sarah Youngren / Hawaii Pacific University/ USFWS

By Matthew Savoca

Imagine that you are constantly eating, but slowly starving to death. Hundreds of species of marine mammals, fish, birds and sea turtles face this risk every day when they mistake plastic debris for food.

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