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.
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Recycling is not going to solve the plastic crisis. Oceana campaigns for corporate and legislative change to reduce our dependency on single-use plastics, including by adopting reusable alternatives.
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Globally, an estimated 15 million metric tonnes of plastic enters the ocean every year. This is roughly equivalent to dumping two rubbish lorries full of plastic into the ocean every minute. Millions of items, mainly single-use plastics, are littered annually into European waters. Oceana campaigns to achieve policy and legislative change at both EU and national level to stop plastics from entering the ocean.
Plastics are everywhere, and are a massive threat to marine wildlife and biodiversity. Marine mammals, sea turtles, and birds often confuse plastics with food, or end up entangled in discarded fishing gear. Plastic pollution and climate change are also a dangerous cocktail for the ocean: plastics are made from fossil fuels, and plastic production reduces the ability of the ocean to absorb CO2. In addition, extreme weather events, including storms, help to spread plastic already in the ocean to wider areas. This is how we find beaches and shores covered with mounds of waste, as well as plastic islands floating on the surface of the ocean.
However, this is only the most visible aspect of the plastic pollution problem that plagues the ocean. There is also a hidden aspect: research indicates that 94% of plastics that enter the ocean accumulate in the depths, where low temperatures and lack of light delay degradation, making plastic litter last for centuries.
Recovering this debris is technically and economically unfeasible, either because it is located at a great depth, or because it is snagged on fragile biological structures. The only solution to the plastics crisis is to drastically reduce the everyday use of plastic and ensure plastic materials are reused.
Oceana calls on all social agents to reduce the use of plastic and implement an ambitious regulatory framework that responds decisively to the challenges posed by debris and plastic in the marine environment.
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