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Plastics in the sea: causes, consequences and solutions

The pollution of seas and oceans is another of the great environmental problems that humanity faces. There is a huge amount of garbage in the sea and more than 80% of this is plastic waste. That is why the image of plastic islands in the sea is becoming more and more common to us, but could you imagine an ocean with more plastics than fish? It seems like science fiction, although the truth is that, if we continue with the current rate of plastic consumption, that will be possible and we will have real seas of plastic around the year 2050.

Do you want to know what are the causes of plastics accumulating in the sea, as well as the consequences of plastic pollution in the sea? Do you want to know if there are solutions? We analyze all these questions in this complete AgroCorrn article about plastics in the sea, its causes, consequences and solutions , stay to find out everything!

  1. Causes of plastics in the sea
  2. Types of plastics in the sea
  3. Where there is more plastic in the sea
  4. Consequences of plastics in the sea
  5. Solutions for plastics at sea

Causes of plastics in the sea

We begin by explaining how plastic reaches the sea . When we dispose of plastics that we no longer use, they can follow several routes: they can be incinerated, recycled, end up in a landfill or anywhere in our environment if we don’t dispose of them properly. Those that are not recycled or incinerated, even those that are still in the yellow container , are susceptible to being swept into the sea or into the rivers that flow into it by the action of the wind and rain.

In addition, we also find plastics in the sea that originate from deliberate dumping of garbage , accidental dumping from ships or effluent from treatment plants or wastewater treatment plants. However, none of this would happen, or at least not on such a large scale, if before we did not manufacture them in the huge quantities that we do.

Types of plastics in the sea

As we said, more than 80% of marine litter is plastic and these can be of various types. Thus, we have to:

  • 18% corresponds to non-plastic waste.
  • 27% are plastics from equipment used in fishing.
  • 49% corresponds to single-use plastics.
  • The remaining 6% is other plastics.

Regarding the most abundant (single-use), recent studies affirm that there is a large amount of plastic on the beaches that informs us about the most common types of single-use plastics that affect marine pollution . From highest to lowest amount, these are:

  • Caps, stoppers and bottles.
  • Cigarette butts or kettles.
  • Cotton swabs or swabs.
  • Packages or wrappers of snacks or appetizers, packaging of candies and other sweets.
  • Some hygiene items (tampons, wipes, etc.).
  • Plastic bags.
  • Straws, mixers and cutlery.
  • Glasses and cups.
  • Balloons and sticks to hold them.
  • Food packaging, including those used for fast food.

These top ten products account for 86% of single-use plastics or 43% of all marine litter .

Where there is more plastic in the sea

How much plastic is there in the sea? What amounts are we talking about? Well, it is estimated that, each year, no less than 4.8 to 12.7 million tons end up in the oceans, having already accumulated in our seas more than a whopping 150 million tons.

And where can we find it? Plastic can be found in every corner of the planet, even plastics have been found 10,000 meters deep . However, five areas have been identified where there is a great concentration; they are known as “islands” or “soups” made of plastic. There is one plastic soup in the Indian Ocean, two in the Atlantic Ocean (North and South) and two in the Pacific Ocean (North and South), and they are located in those places due to the ocean currents.

In these plastic islands , the most accumulated waste is microplastics, which are the product of the degradation of plastics into smaller pieces as a result of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation and the force of waves. Nanoplastics can also be generated , even smaller than the previous ones, both leading to serious problems of unknown extent. Likewise, these microplastics are also generated when tires wear out and when we wash synthetic fibers. We even intentionally produce microplastics to put in some scrubs and soaps. Here you can learn more about what are microplastics and their types . Also, below you can see a video about the plastic islands.

Consequences of plastics in the sea

We are currently in the “Plastic Age”, we manufacture it in huge quantities because it is amazingly useful. However, we must not forget that it is also amazingly resistant, which makes its degradation extremely difficult, taking mother nature from a few decades to centuries to decompose and reabsorb it. Here we tell you how long it takes for plastic to degrade .

We are going to see below how plastic affects the sea , as the aforementioned is not without consequences for our environment. The main problems of plastic in the sea are:

  • Plastic debris can cause entanglement in some marine animals, which can hinder their development and even cause the death of the animal.
  • They also interfere with the nutrition of some animals that mistake the pieces of plastic for their usual food, sometimes managing to block their stomach and / or intestine and cause death.
  • In the long process of decomposition, microplastics and nanoplastics are accompanied by the release of chemicals that are harmful to life in ocean waters; This is the case of bisphenol A, which has been documented to harm the reproduction of marine species.
  • The human being also ingests these materials (as a consequence of the existence of the food chain), although the repercussions that this could have on our health are still unknown.
  • There are some species of bacteria that develop on plastics, which move freely and can act as dispersal vectors in ecosystems that are not adapted to them.
  • Finally, plastics in the sea also have negative impacts on various sectors of the economy, where tourism and fishing sectors are mainly affected.

Solutions for plastics at sea

How to avoid plastics in the sea? The solutions involve implementing actions in which producers, consumers and those who manage waste intervene and, of course, they must be supported by governments. The main solutions are:

  • Start by reducing. For example, use glass containers or wooden clothespins instead of plastic ones. And, above all, we must avoid using single-use plastics as much as possible.
  • In this sense, the European Parliament has approved the ban on single-use plastics (plates, cutlery, straws) from 2021.
  • Another solution at the legislative level would be to create taxes for the plastics that pollute the most.
  • Choose to buy foods that are sold in bulk, so you will avoid buying plasticized and excessively packaged foods (do not forget to take your cloth bag with you).
  • Avoid using microplastic cosmetics and opt for biodegradable clothing.
  • Reuse. If you already have plastic products, try as much as possible to reuse them. The most important thing is to buy products that you know will have a very long shelf life.
  • Recycle. Leave the plastic in the right place to be treated and it does not end up in the oceans.
  • It requires more efficient recycling methods to be available, as there are still some plastics that cannot be recycled.

And what do we do with the plastics that are already in the sea? Some solutions for plastics in the sea are also proposed :

  • Collection of plastics in the sea with the Ocean Cleanup project , which is a mechanism that collects garbage from the sea with the help of structures designed appropriately so as not to cause damage to fauna and flora. It does so passively, taking advantage of the ocean currents.
  • Another project, devised by a Norwegian tycoon, is the launch of a large ocean research vessel that will pursue, among other objectives, novel solutions for cleaning plastic from the oceans.
  • The possibility of recycling is also considered, with the help of the surprising capacity of bacteria that digest polyethylene terephthalate (PET), widely used for example in single-use plastic bottles.

Now that you have learned all this, we encourage you to learn more about the problem of plastics, not just the problems in the seas, with this other AgroCorrn article on the Causes, consequences and solutions of plastic pollution . Also, here below you can see a video from our YouTube channel about this problem of plastics in the seas and oceans.

If you want to read more articles similar to Plastics in the sea: causes, consequences and solutions , we recommend that you enter our Pollution category .

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Hello, I am a blogger specialized in environmental, health and scientific dissemination issues in general. The best way to define myself as a blogger is by reading my texts, so I encourage you to do so. Above all, if you are interested in staying up to date and reflecting on these issues, both on a practical and informative level.

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