The basics on plastics and plastic pollution
How ocean plastic impacts human beings
Policy and Regulation
Data and research on businesses, governments and lobbying
Information on plastics, microplastics and how it ends up in our oceans
Royal Society of Chemistry
As plastics fill up our oceans, recognising their value rather than thinking of them as disposable could help us deal with what has turned into a large, global problem. This short web article from Royal Society of Chemistry is a helpful introduction to this global challenge.
The Struggle to Track Microplastics
Scientists know that there is a colossal amount of plastic in the oceans. But they don’t know where it all is, what it looks like or the damage it does.
This assessment report produced by an international team of experts focuses on a category of plastic debris in the Marine Environment termed ‘microplastics’. This paper includes an introduction to the problem and DPSIR policy framework.
We know we are dumping lots of plastics into our oceans. “More than 8 million tons of plastic are dumped in our oceans every year.” Considerable progress has been made in determining the amount and location of plastic debris in our seas, but how much plastic actually enters them in the first place is more uncertain. Jambeck et al. combine available data on solid waste with a model that uses population density and economic status to estimate the amount of land-based plastic waste entering the ocean. Unless waste management practices are improved, the flux of plastics to the oceans could increase by an order of magnitude within the next decade.
Misconceptions, concerns and impacts on marine environments
The report, "Biodegradable Plastics and Marine Litter. Misconceptions, Concerns and Impacts on Marine Environments", finds that complete biodegradation of plastics occurs in conditions that are rarely, if ever, met in marine environments, with some polymers requiring industrial composters and prolonged temperatures of above 50°C to disintegrate. There is also limited evidence suggesting that labelling products as 'biodegradable' increases the public's inclination to litter.
The report was launched to mark the 20th anniversary of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA), an intergovernmental mechanism hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Filmed by Verity White, through a microscope at Plymouth Marine Lab
Even the tiniest animals in the sea are exposed to the global environmental challenge of marine litter. These little creatures are filter feeders, and indiscriminately feed on whatever is around. Microplastics in the oceans accumulate POPS, and these might then be accumulated up through the food chain when the plankton is eaten by larger animals. The little green dots are pieces of plastic coloured with fluorescent dye so you can see them being ingested by the plankton - scary stuff!
Research on how plastics in our oceans impact us
An assessment of the presence of anthropogenic debris in fishes and shellfish on sale for human consumption. We sampled from markets in Makassar, Indonesia, and from California, USA. Debris was extracted from the digestive tracts of fish and whole shellfish. In Indonesia, anthropogenic debris was found in 28% of individual fish and in 55% of all species. Similarly, in the USA, anthropogenic debris was found in 25% of individual fish and in 67% of all species. Anthropogenic debris was also found in 33% of individual shellfish sampled. All of the anthropogenic debris recovered from fish in Indonesia was [plastic] fragments, whereas anthropogenic debris recovered from fish in the USA was mostly [plastic] fibres.
The occurrence of microplastics (MPs) in saltwater bodies is relatively well studied, but nothing is known about their presence in most of the commercial salts that are widely consumed by humans across the globe. This is what this study explores.