The Plastic Problem

Volunteers Brieuc and Andreas working hard to remove a 200 kg plastic fishing net from the marine environment around the island Andammen, at 70°N. Photographer: Jonas Legernes

Volunteers Brieuc and Andreas working hard to remove a 200 kg plastic fishing net from the marine environment around the island Andammen, at 70°N. Photographer: Jonas Legernes

 
 

The plastic problem

Plastic is seriously threat to the marine environment, and is now part of the food chain. Whether the plastic is an intact fishing net that traps and drowns big marine mammals, a plastic bag that is mistaken for food, or broken down, microscopic pieces of plastic the size of plankton, you find it anywhere. Plastic is a synthetic material made from petrochemicals derived from oil, gas or coal. It’s cheap, and extremely durable, which is why plastic is so popular. All plastic that was ever produced, and not recycled still exists, which is why it is still unknown how long it takes to degrade. Scientists estimate that number to be 500-700 years. In the ocean, plastic breaks up into tiny, microscopic pieces due to sun, salt and weather. These pieces, called micro plastic,is mistaken for plankton, and enter the bottom of the food chain. It goes all the way up to the top predators, and it gets accumulated, meaning the top predators have the most plastic in them. Recent studies, even found plastic in humans. This negatively affects our hormones, and can be the source of cancer. Below, you can find some interesting statistics about plastic in the ocean:

  • Every minute, about 15 tonnes of plastic ends up in the ocean.

  • 91% of all plastic produced is not recycled.

  • Most of the plastic that ends up in the ocean comes from land and is washed down into the ocean with rain, weather, waterways and rivers.

  • In 1950, about 2 million tonnes of plastic was produced. In 2015, the production had increased to 381 million tonnes.

  • The only known ways of stopping the plastic from entering the ocean’s food chain is to recycle or stop consuming.

  • The only known way of stopping the plastic that has already entered the ocean from entering the ocean’s food chain is to clean it up.