Every minute the equivalent of a plastic garbage truck is dumped in the ocean. In the last 10 years, the world industry has produced more plastics than in the last 100 years. We produce an average of 300 million tons of plastics per year and it is estimated that between 8 and 12 million tons end up in our oceans.
The degree of pollution of the marine environment by plastic waste is enormous. Once in the ocean, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to clean up this waste. It floats in all the oceans of the world, from the polar regions to the equator, at all depths. Recently, plastic pieces have been found on the Antarctic Peninsula and in the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean.
Between 60 and 80 percent of the debris at sea comes from the land (the rest comes mainly from fishing). The most common marine debris consists of plastic and synthetic materials that have disastrous consequences for marine fauna and seabirds. The ingestion of sea debris mainly affects sea turtles and seabirds, but does not spare other marine mammals and fish. They generally swallow sea debris because they see it as prey.
The seabed, especially near the coast, is also polluted – mainly by plastic bags.
Microbeads, Big Problem
You probably think you don’t know much about microspheres, but still you use them every day.
They are small plastic particles with a diameter of less than five millimeters that are found in many cosmetic products sold around the world. They are almost invisible to the naked eye and give texture to shower gels, toothpastes and other body care products used in everyday life. A single tube of facial cream can contain up to 360,000 pieces! This means that the simple act of washing, or brushing the teeth, unconsciously causes the user to throw thousands of these plastic beads into the environment.
Under pressure from many associations, including Greenpeace, major brands and several countries have decided to ban these microbeads.
In France, the law on biodiversity has obliged cosmetic companies to remove microbeads from their production by January 2018.
Less plastic on land, less plastic at sea
For Greenpeace, eliminating plastic at source is the best solution to combat this ocean pollution. The use of materials that can remain in place for several hundred years for single-use products, such as packaging or straws, is simply abnormal!
What are the solutions?
If cleaning up the plastic continents in the heart of the ocean seems like a titanic task for which no one wants to take responsibility or bear the cost, it is the responsibility of policy makers to address this problem by adopting effective measures to reduce waste at source and then ensure its recycling.
It is also the responsibility of companies producing consumer goods to reduce the amount of plastics placed on the market and to invest in innovative distribution systems to reduce the use of plastic packaging.
What you can do
We are all responsible for this situation and we all have to get involved so that it does not get any worse. It is high time to fundamentally question the way we use (or abuse) plastics. You can act now:
- Reduce consumption, reuse, recycle your products.
- Consume responsibly and try to avoid over-packaged products, especially disposable products. Say no to “all disposable”! Avoid disposable products (water in plastic bottles, plastic straws, plastic bags, disposable utensils, household wipes, etc.) as much as possible.
- A lobby for more and better recycling equipment in your area.
- Take part in local cleaning initiatives on things, rivers and beaches or organize them yourself. These operations are not a miraculous solution, but they are very effective at drawing attention to the more serious problem of our oceans.
- If you live in a coastal area or along a river flowing into the ocean, your wastewater is likely to carry waste directly into the sea. Be aware of this as well as any other potential sources of marine pollution in your area. Fight for their removal.