What is ocean plastic?

Plastics are the most common form of marine debris. They can come from a variety of terrestrial and ocean sources, enter the water in many ways, and impact the ocean and the Great Lakes. Once in water, plastic waste never completely biodegrades. Plastic represents a serious threat to our oceans and waterways.

Birds, turtles, fish and other marine species ingest the pieces of plastic and mistake them for fish eggs, plankton, jellyfish, or other food sources. Every year, hundreds of thousands of marine creatures, both large and small, die from complications related to plastic waste: they may have stomachs full of plastic that they cannot digest or they can be fatally trapped in the rubble. Harmful chemical contaminants can also stick to plastics and increase the toxicity of plastic waste that animals consume. The risks to human health derived from microplastics in seafood are currently being evaluated.

The Ocean Plastic unit for children ages 7 to 11 is a resource for KS1 teachers that introduces students to the topic of plastic pollution. Students study materials, their properties and are inspired to achieve changes in their communities. The boom in plastic production reached 1.5 million metric tons in 1950, and it was approximately a decade later that the scientific community realized that this material was polluting the oceans. According to the National Ocean Service, the vast majority of ocean pollution, a whopping 80 percent, comes from land.

The cover was molded with ocean plastics collected near islands or coasts and, through this small blue accent, Soma and Parley hoped to start conversations about pollution. Fashion brands have also turned Ocean Plastic into yoga pants, swimsuits, jackets, jeans, bracelets and sunglasses. Through the NextWave Plastics collective, major retailers of furniture and electronic products are also adding ocean plastics to their manufacturing process. The main sources of plastic waste found in the ocean come from land and come from urban and storm runoff, sewer overflows, garbage, inadequate waste disposal and management, industrial activities, tire abrasion, construction and illegal dumping.

Members such as HP are manufacturing ink cartridges for printers with plastic bottles from Haiti's waterways, while recent additions, such as IKEA, seek to use ocean pollution as raw material for household items and furniture. A plastic water bottle thrown on the street can travel through a stormwater sewer, to rivers and streams, and to the ocean. Ocean advocacy groups also recommend getting rid of microbeads, the tiny plastic particles embedded in many soaps, scrubs and toothpastes.

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