The maritime littering was discovered when some 26 of the foul-smelling disks, about 20 inches across, were discovered washed up on Carova Beach in North Carolina's Outer Banks, the Virginian-Pilot reported in May. Other disks were found in nearby Kill Devil Hills, the outlet reported. Some had melted-in markings clearly identifying them as belonging to the Navy.
A spokesman for U.S. Fleet Forces Command said an investigation that followed the reports determined the identity of the ship and resulted in a confession from the sailor who had thrown them overboard.
"When notified of the disks' discovery, we immediately began to investigate their origin," Ted Brown, a command spokesman, said in a statement. "On May 19, Navy representatives traveled to the Outer Banks to take custody of the disks to examine them. We found markings on several of the disks confirming that they did originate from a Navy ship."
The service, he said, would take appropriate action with regard to the sailor and is working to ensure that plastic material from ships is disposed of in keeping with Navy regulations.
Crews routinely melt and compress plastic waste aboard ships to save space, Brown said in the release, but these are intended to be kept aboard the ship until they can be disposed of ashore. No ships are allowed to dispose of plastic in the ocean.
"The Navy has already distributed a message to afloat units reminding them of the Navy's plastics processing and disposal procedures," Brown said in the release.
The Whidbey Island is based out of Little Creek, Virginia, a little more than 40 miles from Carova Beach and about 90 miles from Kill Devil Hills. It most recently deployed last June with the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, returning home in December.