Over recent decades, our consumption of plastic has drastically increased. However, only 9% of all this plastic has been recycled – the majority is sent to landfill. Much of it is also piling up in the natural environment, especially the ocean (and every year, 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean, on top of the estimated 150 million metric tons already there).
So, what effect does this seemingly never-ending plastic pollution stream have on the environment?
Landfill space is running out – and that’s not the only problem associated with plastic waste.
The threat of microplastics
The one thing you need to know about plastic is that it never goes away – it only falls apart into smaller and smaller plastic particles: microplastics and Nano plastics. These are released from plastic waste in landfills and the ocean, but also from our households (for example by washing synthetic clothing) or industries (such as from the use of plastic fishing nets).
Fishing nets release microplastics and are often discarded into the ocean.
This form of plastic pollution is one of the most dangerous because it’s difficult to measure or tackle – are current technologies simply aren’t advanced enough.
The effects on marine ecosystems
While plastic pollution on land is also taking its toll on the planet, marine plastic pollution is where most negative effects can be observed. Larger plastic pieces present a physical danger to marine life, as animals can ingest it or get entangled in it, leading to injury or death. Microplastics and Nano plastics are also dangerous – especially to smaller animals, which can starve to death upon ingesting them, as their digestive tract gets blocked.
All marine species suffer from plastic pollution.
What can you do?
While reducing plastic waste in the ocean as a whole will be extremely difficulty, it is easy to make a positive change as an individual. Pass on plastic straws at restaurants, stop buying plastic water bottles and try to find eco-friendly alternatives to your every day products. Check out our "Eco-Friendly Products" page to get involved.