The flood of plastic?

We have all seen pictures of plastic in the sea. Every day, more waste enters our largest ecosystems: our oceans.

If we throw it away, it's not gone - it's in the throat or stomach of other species, for example.

– Craig Leeson, director, “A Plastic Ocean”, July 2017

How does plastic get into the sea?

More and more plastic waste is ending up in the oceans or being washed up on the coast. Things only got really complicated when the plastic waste found its way into the sea via various routes. Much of the waste comes from the land. This is usually transported into the sea with wastewater via the rivers. Coastal regions and densely populated tourist spots in Europe, the United States and Indonesia are among the areas particularly badly affected.

Reasons such as inadequate education or ignorance cause many people to leave their plastic waste on the beach. But shipping for trade, tourism and pleasure craft also contribute to marine litter. The long-lasting plastic waste is transported very far by wind and ocean currents and reaches distant areas. Approximately one million pieces of plastic could be detected on one square kilometer. Microplastics are also problematic. This is plastic that has broken down into small plastic particles of 20 to 50 micrometers in size and is initially invisible to the naked eye.

What are the consequences of plastic in the ocean?

Ocean currents turn all the garbage into a floating dump or so-called plastic soup. This serious and ongoing pollution of the oceans has fatal consequences that affect marine life and humans. Every year, almost a million dead seabirds or over a hundred thousand marine mammals are found dead from plastic.

The reason for this is that the animals do not recognize plastic waste as such and mistake plastic for food. The organisms cannot decompose plastic, instead it clumps together in the stomach and can no longer be excreted. With a full stomach but an unsatisfied hunger, the animals suffer a tragic death. Corals, mussels and krill also ingest their food through water filtration, which means that the consumption of microplastics and other pollutants cannot be prevented. The fish in turn feed on corals and the like, which is why they also ingest plastic and pollutants.

In the end, the food chain closes because people eat fish and seafood and also ingest the shredded version of marine plastic and the pollutants it contains.

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