Plastics - Oceana Europe

Promoting Reduce & Reuse Solutions to the Plastic Crisis

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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Minimizing 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, our 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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Plastics

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.

Since you’ve been on this webpage,

kilos of plastic have entered the ocean worldwide.

THE PROBLEM

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.

ROV-image of deep-sea crab holding a piece of plastic in the Emile Baudot seamount (Spain), at 400m depth.

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.

An Oceana diver documents a piece of plastic during a seafloor plastics survey in Valencia, Spain.

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.

Accomplishments

February, 2019

Spanish government creates the second-largest marine national park in the Mediterranean

After more than a decade of campaign work by Oceana and six research expeditions made possible by numerous supporters, the Spanish government increased the size of Cabrera National Park from 100 to 900 square kilometers. This increase makes Cabrera  – one of the richest and most biodiverse places in the Mediterranean and Spanish Coast –  the second largest marine national park in the Mediterranean and the first one to formerly protect deep-sea corals. The park will also provide shelter to important species including marine mammals like sperm whales and dolphins and large fish like bluefin tuna, and will be the Mediterranean’s deepest protected national park at over 2,000 meters.

June, 2018

Malta Expands Habitat Protections in Mediterranean

The government of Malta has announced the designation or expansion of eight marine protected areas in the Mediterranean. This announcement is the result of Oceana efforts that began in 2013, and the protections are based on the findings of two Oceana expeditions (2015 and 2016 LIFE Ba?AR Expeditions). Oceana mapped out sandbanks, reefs and more than 89 marine caves through use of a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) and scuba divers. After collecting and analyzing 310 hours of ROV footage and thousands of photos, we delivered a list of proposed sites for protection to the Maltese government that included seagrass meadows, bamboo coral gardens and habitat for cnidarians, sponges, a variety of other invertebrates and fish. With these new measures, 35 percent of Malta’s waters are now protected. As a designation made under the Natura 2000 framework, national authorities are now responsible for drafting a management plan within six years – a key step toward ensuring the continued protection of these areas.

Reports & Factsheets

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