Plastic Pollution

Plastics are a type of synthetic polymer found in certain types of clothes, bottles, bags, food wrappings and containers

  • Most plastics are not biodegradable and persist in the environment for many centuries (bioremediation is not effective)

Large visible plastic debris (> 1 mm) is defined as macroplastic, while smaller debris (< 1 mm) is defined as microplastic

  • Macroplastic debris can be degraded and broken down into microplastic debris by UV radiation and the action of waves
  • Ocean currents will concentrate plastic debris in large oceanic convergence zones called gyres

Plastic debris will leach chemicals into the water and also absorb toxic contaminants called persistent organic pollutants

  • Microplastics will absorb more persistent organic pollutants (POPs) due to their smaller size (more available surface area)

Both macroplastic and microplastic debris is ingested by marine animals, which mistake the debris for food

  • This leads to the bioaccumulation and biomagnification of persistent organic pollutants within marine animals
  • It may also damage the stomach of animals or cause them to stop feeding (by taking up space in the digestive tract)

Plastic Pollution in Marine Environments

plastic debris