More plastic than ever is finding its way into our seas and sinking to the bottom. At least 5 trillion pieces of plastic are in the sea, most being microplastics, which means they measure under 5mm. This, as you can imagine, is a disaster for ocean life. Sea creatures are dying every single day because of the overload of plastics in their water.
Back in the 1950s, 1.5 million tonnes of plastic were produced. Fast forward to today and we are sitting with 300 million tonnes. What is the difference between then and now? Well, people want convenience – and throwaway bottles, packaging and bags have become the solution. We don’t reuse things the way we should. The biggest problem is that most of the plastic ends up in our seas in the form of microplastics (tiny pieces of plastic that have been shredded by the ocean’s currents), and these create “clouds” that float around, often being mistaken for food by sea creatures. Some microplastic gets caught up with other ocean debris and sinks. So essentially, microplastics end up everywhere!
Experts agree that while we can make plans to clear up bigger pieces of plastic (a project called The Ocean Cleanup has been testing floating platforms to collect these), microplastics are nearly impossible to deal with. “There’s no efficient means to clean up 5km down on the ocean floor,” says Marcus Eriksen, a co-founder of 5 Gyres, an organization that studies plastic pollution in the seas. The best solution would be to prevent plastic entering the seas going forward. To do this, people who produce plastic would need to be more responsible and make plans for the product’s recycling. And we, as responsible humans, need to be more aware of what we throw away and the damage it is doing to our environment.