Facts about plastic pollution in the oceans & what you can do to help

Plastic pollution is not only very harmful to marine wildlife but it also disturbs food webs. And it’s bad news for us too, as plastic toxins make their way back into our diet.

o Approximately 8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year. Around 80% of it comes from the land, and the remaining 20% from boats and large cargo ships that dump their debris directly into the sea.
o In the oceans, by a process known as photodegradation, plastic slowly breaks down into tiny fragments called microplastics. As some debris sink, pollution is present throughout the water column and not just the surface. Researchers call the oceans a ‘plastic soup’.
o On average 46,000 fragments of plastic are present in each square mile of our seas. Gyres, the circular currents, carry plastic everywhere.
o On the beach, a plastic bottle can last for more than 450 years and a plastic bag for up to 1000 years. Every piece of plastic ever made still exists today.
o 267 marine species are harmed by plastic pollution, that includes 54% of the 120 marine mammal species on the threatened list. Over 100,000 marine mammals and 1 million seabirds die every year because of plastic.
o Approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used every year. That’s about 1 million every minute. Packaging represents over 40% of our plastic usage. As much as 50% of plastic is used only once and thrown away.
o Plastic is made of suspected carcinogenic chemicals that leach out into the seas. As plastic breaks down, it accumulates toxins. Floating contaminated microplastics are ingested by marine life, which is in turn consumed by us. Plastic chemicals are present in the bloodstream of almost every human.

What you can do to help is simple: use less plastic !
o REFUSE PLASTIC BAGS. Always have a reusable bag when you go to the shops.
o Stop using straws, you don’t need them ! Your cocktail will be more enjoyable next time.
o Stop using plastic cups. Drink from reusable mugs and glasses.
o Switch to a reusable water bottle.
o Buy items with minimum packaging. Sometimes very hard to do unfortunately.
o Don’t litter and pick rubbish up wherever you see it. Even when you go snorkelling !
o Take part in a beach clean up day, a good deed for you and the environment.

Remember that we mostly use plastic in our every day lives for only a few minutes, a few hours or a few days. Their toxic remains however, last forever.

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I am a zoologist with a passion for animal conservation and wildlife rehabilitation.

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