Campaign | Oceana Europe


Plastics: A Problem in the Depths of the Oceans

For every piece of plastic on the surface, dozens accumulate on the seafloor – Just because you can’t see it, it doesn’t mean it’s not there...


Since you've been on this webpage,

kilos of plastic have entered the oceans worldwide.



The Problem

Our oceans are infested with plastic debris. Each year, more than 15 million tons of plastics end up in our oceans worldwide, critically harming biodiversity and marine wildlife. Plastics are a massive threat for aquatic mammals, sea turtles and other species that often confuse shopping bags with food or even end up entwined in discarded fishing gear. We also find beaches and shores covered with mounds of waste, as well as plastic islands floating on the surface of the seas. But this is only the most visible part of the plastic-pollution problem that is currently plaguing the oceans. There is also an invisible part, as the reality is that most plastics that reach the ocean accumulate in the depths. Low temperatures and lack of light delay its degradation (if they ever completely do!) making plastic litter last for centuries.

Plastics are choking the Mediterranean #PlasticFreeSeas (subtítulos en Español) from Oceana on Vimeo.

Action in Europe: The EU Plastic Directive

The 2019 European Union (EU) Single-use Plastics Directive commits Member States to introduce bans or other measures to significantly reduce plastic waste. The Directive will regulate 80–85% of the plastic litter items that are most commonly found European shores, of which more than 50% are single-use plastics. Some single-use plastic products, including cutlery, plates, straws and cups, food and drink containers made of expanded polystyrene and all oxo-degradable plastic products, will be banned. Furthermore, the Directive requires Member States to achieve a 77% collection target for plastic bottles by 2025 and a 90% target by 2029.

Documenting Plastic Pollution for the Last 15 years

Oceana in Europe has been documenting plastic pollution in the oceans as part of our expeditions, especially focusing on the depths, thereby unveiling the magnitude of the problem often unnoticed due to the technological difficulties of reaching such deep-sea areas.

This means that for 15 years, we have seen first-hand the destructive consequences of plastics in deep-sea areas for marine habitats and organisms. Our research expeditions have shown that for each piece of plastic visible on the surface, there are dozens of pieces hidden in the seabed.

What Oceana Does

Ambitious transposition of EU Plastics Directive by 2021

Oceana works to press Member States to transpose the EU Plastics Directive into national law by 2021 and ensure it contains best-practice provisions to drastically reduce single-use plastic waste reaching European seas. Where Member States already have highly developed plastic waste management systems, Oceana pushes for the inclusion of stronger provisions than those specifically required in the EU Plastics Directive. To do so, Oceana will publish a series of reports on the effects of plastic pollution on Europe’s seafloor with the objective of raising awareness across different audiences. The documents will include guidelines and encourage European Member State ministries of the environment– and their associated nature conservation agencies – to become environmental champions through greening their entire procurement procedures and becoming single-use plastic-free zones.

Creation & expansion of Plastic Free Zones

Oceana advocates with multi-level partners across Europe to implement plastic-reduction initiatives, including the introduction of plastic-free zones in business set ups and leisure environments.

We strongly believe that everybody can play an important role in the reduction of unnecessary, throwaway plastic. By using toolkits and showcasing the impacts of marine plastic litter unveiled by Oceana’s expeditions, we want to mobilise stakeholders to voluntarily reduce single-use plastics.

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