Minimising Single-Use Plastics Reaching the Ocean

Plastic litter on beaches or floating on the surface is the most noticeable proof of plastic pollution in the ocean, but research indicates that 94% of plastics in the ocean lie on the seafloor. The most found plastics in Europe are bags, single-use food and beverage containers (such as bottles), wrappers, cutlery, and wet wipes. Oceana campaigns to eliminate plastic pollution at its source – before it can reach the depths of the ocean.



Research indicates that plastic pollution reaches and remains in the ocean depths, where low temperatures, and lack of light contribute to the slow degradation of litter. This plastic waste can take centuries to degrade. With our at-sea expeditions, Oceana documents plastic pollution in the marine environment and uses its findings to support advocacy campaigns in Europe.

80% of the plastics that reach the ocean come from land-based sources, either from coastal regions or from polluted rivers. Plastics often enter the sea through sewage systems, especially storm water drains, or are blown by the wind from landfills close to the coast or rivers, or from agricultural installations like greenhouses. Another highly impactful source of marine pollution comes from waste generated in coastal areas with dense populations, particularly in areas with high tourism.

The remaining 20% of plastics in the ocean come from sea-based sources, mostly lost and discarded fishing gear and other plastic waste from the fishing and aquaculture sectors, shipping and marine transport, or other human activities at sea like oil platforms.

Oceana documents plastic pollution in the ocean as part of every at-sea expedition. With the collected data, we compile reports and graphic material that support our advocacy efforts to push decision-makers to end plastic pollution.

We have also developed an advanced computational model that predicts the pathways and accumulation zones for plastic waste in the ocean, unveiling that plastic travels long distances not only at the surface, but also on the seabed. The model is accessible through a viewer.

Non-buoyant plastic concentration


Oceana is proud to be part of the #breakfreefromplastic movement.