Plastic: A Global Crisis

For every piece of plastic on the surface, there are a dozen pieces of plastic on the seafloor.


Since you've been on this webpage,

kilos of plastic have entered the oceans worldwide.


Our oceans are currently facing a massive and growing threat from something we all encounter everyday: plastics. Marine mammals with stomachs full of shopping bags, sea turtles' limbs entwined in discarded fishing gear, beaches covered with mounds of plastic marine debris... these are just some of the more visual aspects of the plastic-pollution that is currently plaguing the oceans. 

The Problem

Plastics and their by-products are littering our cities, oceans, and waterways. Plastic waste causes critical harm to marine wildlife and ocean ecosystems.

Plastic debris has been found floating on the sea surface, washing up on the world's most remote coastlines, melting out of Arctic sea ice, and sitting at the deepest point of the ocean floor. It's simply everywhere. As plastics continue to flood into our oceans, the list of marine species affected by plastic and microplastics increases.

Tens of thousands of individual marine organisms have been observed suffering from entanglement or ingestion of plastics permeating the marine environment - from zooplankton and fish, to sea turtles, marine mammals and seabirds. The United Nations warns that "life in the seas risks irreparable damage from a rising tide of plastic waste".

Given the scale of problem, to stop plastic pollution in our oceans, we must start from its source: production, particularly when it comes to the use of unnecessary single-use plastics like shopping bags, hygiene products, drinking straws and stirrers, plates and cutlery.

A Step in the Right Direction: The EU Plastic Directive

In October 2018 the European parliament overwhelmingly backed an extensive ban on single-use plastic products in an effort to curb plastic pollution.

Under the proposed directive, items such as plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and sticks for balloons would be banned by 2021, and 90% of plastic bottle recycled by 2025. Together constitute 70% of all marine litter items.

At present, an estimated 300 million tonnes of plastic litters the oceans, with more than 5 trillion plastic pieces — weighing more than 250,000 tonnes — currently floating on the surface. Around 8 million tonnes of plastic enter our oceans every single year.

What Oceana Does

For over a decade, Oceana has been documenting plastic pollution in our oceans as part of our expeditions, especially at great depths using our ROV, where we've seen first-hand how this epidemic is affecting marine habitats and organisms directly.

Our research expeditions have shown that for each piece of plastic visible on the surface, there are dozens of pieces hidden in the seabed.

Oceana has documented multiple cases during its latest expeditions around Europe, thereby unveiling the magnitude of a problem that often goes unnoticed due to the technological difficulties of reaching such deep-sea areas. The deep-sea is home to pristine marine habitats, and plastics are now putting this great biodiversity at risk.

© Oceana / Carlos Minguel

© Oceana

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