Documented images of albatross chicks and marine turtles dying slow deaths from eating plastic bags and other waste are being seared into our consciences. And yet our mass pollution of Earth’s seas and oceans, fueled by single-use plastics and throw-away consumerism, just gets worse.
Plastic debris is estimated to kill more than a million seabirds, 100,000 marine mammals, and countless sea turtles every year. Plastics, with all their benefits and promises, have revolutionized societies and economies since their development in the 1950s, but now some 8 million tonnes end up in the oceans every year.
Waste plastic, making up to 80 percent of all marine debris from surface waters to deep-sea sediments, breaks down into micro-plastics which enter the digestive systems of sea and land animals and humans. Invisible plastic is in the water we drink, the salt we eat and the air we breathe. Experts are still working out the long-term impacts, such as cancer and impaired reproductive systems.
The fishing industry, nautical activities, and aquaculture also leave a massive legacy in terms of ocean waste, poisoning, and ensnaring sea life.