Marine species ingest plastic waste or become entangled in it, causing serious injuries and death. Plastic pollution threatens food safety and quality, human health, coastal tourism and contributes to climate change. Plastic pollution in the ocean has a devastating impact on marine life and ecosystems. The most obvious is the damage that plastic objects cause to animals when they come into contact with them or ingest them, including asphyxiation, entanglement, lacerations, infections and internal injuries.
In addition, plastics absorb pollutants that float in the ocean and contain harmful chemicals in themselves. Preliminary research suggests that when animals consume these toxin-soaked particles, they can damage their organs, make them more susceptible to diseases and alter their reproduction. In the ocean, plastic waste harms and kills fish, seabirds and marine mammals. Marine plastic pollution has affected at least 267 species worldwide, including 86% of all sea turtle species, 44% of all seabird species and 43% of all marine mammal species.
Impacts include deaths from ingestion, starvation, asphyxiation, infection, drowning and entanglement. 7.The European Space Agency even uses its satellites to track plastic waste from space, hoping to inform new policies that limit plastic pollution. However, despite the magnitude of this problem, global plastic production continues, putting the oceans at increasing risk. The plastics industry, through the leadership of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), spends millions of dollars each year to convince policy makers and Californians that solutions to plastic pollution lie in anti-garbage campaigns that attribute responsibility for marine debris to individual behavior.
If you live next to a sea or river, you can volunteer to pick up trash in your local community, thus eliminating plastics from waterways and preventing them from reaching the ocean in the first place. New technologies allow us to capture larger marine debris, but it's practically impossible to reach small plastic and microplastic objects, especially when they are found deep in the ocean. One of the concerns is that plastics from the ocean eventually degrade into nanoplastics, which are so small that they could enter human cells when consumed. Plastic pollution has become one of the most pressing environmental problems, as the rapid increase in the production of disposable plastic products exceeds the world's capacity to address them.
A Dutch company called The Ocean Cleanup has invented a huge floating pen that extracts plastic waste from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Once consumed by animals, ingested plastic can puncture internal organs or cause fatal intestinal obstructions; it also causes starvation, because a stomach full of plastic gives the animal the illusion of being full. Abandoned fishing nets and plastic longlines, known as ghost gear, are also an important source, since they represent around 10% of plastic waste in the sea.