We know our oceans and coastlines are choking on plastic. We’ve all seen plastic bottles, food wrappers and plastic bags polluting beaches, and been horrified by the stories of marine creatures like seabirds and whales starving when their stomachs become packed full of plastic, Sandton Chronicle reports.
Scientists have shown that up to 12 million tons of plastic are entering our oceans every year – that’s a rubbish truck full every minute. Single-use plastic packaging for food and drink is a huge part of the problem.
But how does plastic actually get into our oceans?
Just nine percent of plastic waste is being recycled. When plastic waste is collected and transported to landfill sites it is at risk of blowing away and ending up in rivers or oceans.
Plastic litter can be carried by wind and rain into drainage networks or rivers that flow into the sea. Major rivers around the world carry an estimated two million tons of plastic into the sea every year.
Products that go down the drain
Tiny pieces of plastic known as microbeads have been added to all sorts of personal care and cosmetic products that are washed directly down the drain – from face scrubs to shower gels to toothpaste. Many of these microbeads are too small to be filtered out by wastewater plants and end up flowing into the ocean where they may end up in the stomachs of marine life.
Plastic containing items like cotton buds, face wipes and sanitary products are flushed down the toilet ending up in the ocean.
We need to reduce the amount of single-use plastic being sold worldwide. We need governments to improve waste management systems and promote the re-use of plastic through initiatives that boost resource efficiency and a circular economy.