Countryfile Magazine - - Contents -

Plas­tic pol­lu­tion is mak­ing waves – so how can we cut down on our plas­tic use?

More than eight mil­lion tons of plas­tic end up in the oceans each year. This de­bris re­sults in an es­ti­mated $13 bil­lion a year in losses from dam­age to marine ecosys­tems, in­clud­ing fi­nan­cial losses to fish­eries and tourism as well as time spent clean­ing beaches.

Garbage patches have de­vel­oped in the Pa­cific, At­lantic and In­dian Oceans, mainly com­pris­ing plas­tics that are not biodegrad­able. The mi­croplas­tics (plas­tics less than 5mm) of the Great Pa­cific Garbage Patch make the water look like a cloudy soup. These en­ter oceans as beads from per­sonal care prod­ucts; mi­crofi­bres from clothes; nur­dles (lentil-sized plas­tic pel­lets used to make nearly all of our plas­tic prod­ucts); or from larger plas­tic items that have bro­ken into small pieces. Mi­croplas­tics are found ev­ery­where from seabeds to Arc­tic ice.

Drift­ing plas­tic ac­cu­mu­lates al­gae and smells sim­i­lar to the krill that many marine an­i­mals feed on. Thou­sands of al­ba­tross chicks die in the North Pa­cific Ocean from star­va­tion, tox­i­c­ity and chok­ing on plas­tics. The UK’s ful­mar pop­u­la­tion is also af­fected, with nur­dles found in the di­ges­tive sys­tem of 90% of sam­pled birds.

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