How much plastic pollution goes into the sea every year?
It’s hard to know exactly how much plastic goes into the ocean every year, as most research has been done on the cumulative amount of plastics in our waterways. A close estimate however could be around 15 million tons per year and growing.
The facts are scary. Some estimates claim that by 2050 there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish. In 2018 there were 384 million tons of plastic in the ocean, a staggering 5+ trillion pieces. The largest plastic gyre covers approximately 1.6 million square kilometres.
How does ocean plastic pollution affect humans and animals?
Apart from being a terrible eyesore, over time, plastic in the ocean breaks down and enters the ecosystem. Chemicals from the broken down plastic enter the water, and animals that live on the sea end up either consuming large amounts of plastic, or being trapped in it or strangled, unable to free themselves and dying slow and horrible deaths.
As these plastics enter the food chain, humans are affected also, as the fish we consume have plastic remnants and the chemicals from them in their system. It’s also thought that microfibres caused by broken down plastic enter our bodies, and that most people are likely to have plastic microfibres in their bodies right now.
What is the solution, can ocean plastic be recycled?
Yes it can! There are some amazing scientists and conservationists out there who have worked out solutions to clean up our ocean. The Ocean Cleanup project for instance, linked to above, has developed a system that they predict could clean up 50% of the largest plastic garbage patch in just 5 years.