Did you know that half of all seabirds and turtles have plastic in their stomachs? Floating plastic waste has been shown to accumulate in five subtropical gyres that cover 40 percent of the world’s oceans. Learn how to prevent litter from ending up in the ocean. Learn about the microplastic problem. Seabirds feed plastic pieces to their babies. It estimated that at least 5.25 trillion individual plastic particles weighing roughly 244,000 tonnes (269,000 tons) were floating on or near the surface. If we want to keep our seas plastic free, we need to say no to single-use plastics. Download posters, guides, and cafe calling cards for you and your community to go plastic free! Big ocean feeders like whales scoop up plastic along with the plankton that they eat. Such small pieces of plastic, which are less than 5 mm (0.2 inch) in length, make up a sizable fraction of plastic waste in the oceans. Studies have found that all kinds of species, including small zooplankton, large cetaceans, most seabirds, and all marine turtles, readily ingest plastic bits and trash items such as cigarette lighters, plastic bags, and bottle caps. Studies are needed to fill this knowledge gap, as are studies of the effects of exposure to mixtures of those compounds on animals and humans. Given the global scale of plastic pollution, the cost of removing plastics from the environment would be prohibitive. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. The plastic floating on the surface is estimated to be just 1% of the plastic dumped in our oceans. Turtles mistake plastic bags and wraps for jellyfish, their favourite food. View Posters. In one study, levels of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), a lubricant and insulating material that is now widely banned, were shown to have increased significantly in the preen gland oil of streaked shearwaters (Calonectris leucomelas) after these seabirds had been fed plastic pellets culled from Tokyo Bay for only one week. As waste dumps expand in residential areas, the scavenging poor are often found living near or even on piles of residual plastics. Learn where marine debris—trash in the ocean—comes from. Many Australian container deposit schemes allow you to donate your refunds to charity. In the ocean, plastic pollution can kill marine mammals directly through entanglement in objects such as fishing gear, but it can also kill through ingestion, by being mistaken for food. A study published in 2017 estimated between 1.15 to 2.41 million tonnes of plastic enters the oceans via rivers annually, with peak months being between May and October. By working together, we can create a plastic free world. Donate your container deposit scheme refund to marine conservation, and help us fight plastic! Several million tonnes of debris end up in the world’s oceans every year, and much of it is improperly discarded plastic litter. If they cannot swim and reach the surface, mammals that rely on regular breaths of air will eventually drown. Find out about what happens to microplastic pieces in our ocean. In addition to being nonnutritive and indigestible, plastics have been shown to concentrate pollutants up to a million times their level in the surrounding seawater and then deliver them to the species that ingest them. Most solutions to the problem of plastic pollution, therefore, focus on preventing improper disposal or even on limiting the use of certain plastic items in the first place. These compounds have also been implicated in hormone disruption of animals in terrestrial, aquatic, and marine habitats. The first oceanographic study to examine the amount of near-surface plastic debris in the world’s oceans was published in 2014. Single-use items like plastic cutlery, straws, bottle caps, take-away containers and plastic bags are just some of the many items that get eaten by animals. Indeed, pollution of the environment by chemicals leached from plastics into air and water is an emerging area of concern. Plastics, once in the ocean, are known to absorb a range of hazardous chemicals. Effects are seen in laboratory animals at blood levels lower than those found in the average resident of a developed country. Black Friday Sale! Learn why environmental scientists are worried about microbeads. Land birds, such as the reintroduced California condor, have been found with plastic in their stomachs, and animals that normally feed in waste dumps—for instance, the sacred cows of India—have had intestinal blockages from plastic packaging. Eduardo Leal’s Plastic Sea raises awareness about plastic pollution by focusing on hundreds of pieces of plastic that wash ashore at a remote beach in Colombia.

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