What is the issue ?
Plastic is a synthetic organic polymer made from petroleum with properties ideally suited for a wide variety of applications including: packaging, building and construction, household and sports equipment, vehicles, electronics and agriculture. Over 400 million tons of plastic are produced every year, half of which is used to create single-use items such as shopping bags, cups and straws. If discarded improperly, plastic waste can harm the environment and biodiversity.
At least 14 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year. Plastic debris is currently the most abundant type of litter in the ocean, making up 80% of all marine debris found from surface waters to deep-sea sediments. Plastic is found on the shorelines of every continent, with more plastic waste found near popular tourist destinations and densely populated areas.
The main sources of plastic debris found in the ocean are land-based, coming from urban and stormwater runoff, sewer overflows, littering, inadequate waste disposal and management, industrial activities, tyre abrasion, construction and illegal dumping. Ocean-based plastic pollution originates primarily from the fishing industry, nautical activities and aquaculture.
Under the influence of solar UV radiation, wind, currents and other natural factors, plastic breaks down into small particles called microplastics (particles smaller than 5 mm) or nanoplastics (particles smaller than 100 nm). The small size makes them easy for marine life to ingest accidentally.
Many countries lack the infrastructure to prevent plastic pollution such as: sanitary landfills; incineration facilities; recycling capacity and circular economy infrastructure; proper management and disposal of waste systems. This leads to ‘plastic leakage’ into rivers and the ocean. The legal and illegal global trade of plastic waste may also damage ecosystems, where waste management systems are not sufficient to contain plastic waste.