Plastic in the Ocean
The majority of marine debris is thought to be mainly composed by or originated from plastic litter, such as plastic bags and containers, bottle caps, lost or abandonned fishing nets and lines, styrofoam or small plastic pellets.
Where does it come from?
Estimates of plastic in the world’s oceans exceed 100 million tons. Though 20% comes from ocean sources like derelict fishing gear or ocean dumping, 80% comes from land-based activities, through wind-blown landifll waste, for example.
Impacts on marine life
What is the dimension of the problem?
The plastic dominates the marine debris not only due its intensive production and use in the past decades but also because it is not biodegradable. Only a minor percentage of the plastic used worldwide is recycled. If it reaches the oceans it is virtually undegradable and can travel long distances through marine currents and accumulate along the shores or converging ocean zones. A conspicuous example of the latter is found in the central North Pacific Ocean, known as the Pacific trash vortex, where the pieces of plastic outweigh surface plankton by a factor of 6 to 1.
- Moore, C., Moore, S., Leecaster, M. & Weisberg, S., 2001. A comparison of plastic and plankton in the North Pacific central gyre. Marine Pollution Bulletin 42, 1297–1300.
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