How Does Plastic End Up In The Ocean?
There has been a lot of publicity in the news recently about plastic in our oceans and the effect that is it having on animal and plant life. It can be hard to relate to the pictures you see of a seahorse wrapped around a cotton bud or mounds of plastic forming their own islands and how we personally have caused this.
How Much Plastic Pollution Is There and How Does It Get Into The Sea?
Around 80% of all plastic in the sea comes from land, whilst the remaining 20% is made up of items lost at sea such as fishing gear or shipping container contents. An estimated total weight of this is 269,000 tonnes. 60% of the total amount of ocean plastic is made up of disposable products.
Plastic enters rivers and oceans from land by travelling through our drains. It gets into the drainage system via several ways:
Plastic put in the black bin goes to landfill. It is easily picked up by the wind. As it is so lightweight, plastic gets blown off the refuse trucks and the landfill sites themselves to eventually end up near a drain.
When plastic is not disposed of properly e.g. littering or careless waste disposal, it will be carried by rain or wind and end up going into a drain.
Plastic getting to the ocean via the toilet or sink. This can be products that should not be flushed away such as wet wipes and cotton buds or microfibres that come off your clothes when they are washed.
Some Plastic Ocean Facts
Here are some rather startling statistics from Surfers Against Sewage:
- Every day approximately 8 million pieces of plastic pollution find their way into our oceans.
- There may now be around 5.25 trillion macro and microplastic pieces floating in the open ocean. Weighing up to 269,000 tonnes.
- Approx 5,000 items of marine plastic pollution have been found per mile of beach in the UK.
- Recent studies have revealed marine plastic pollution in 100% of marine turtles, 59% of whales, 36% of seals and 40% of seabird species examined.
- 100,000 marine mammals and turtles and 1 million sea birds are killed by marine plastic pollution annually.
Direct Impact To Us
Although it is easy to forget about plastic pollution as we do not see the evidence of it day to day, we do get directly affected through our diet. 1 in 3 fish caught for us to eat contains plastic, so the question is over time how this will affect our health.
We need to be doing more as a generation to reduce our usage of plastic. If everyone started making small changes to their lifestyle, it would have a massive impact on reducing the effects of plastic pollution.