The Problem

The plastic pollution problem

  • Millions of tons of plastic have entered the oceans (UNEP 2005)
  • Plastic concentrates in five rotating currents, called gyres (Maximenko et al., 2012)
  • In these gyres there is on average 6x more plastic than zooplankton by dry weight (Moore et al., 2001)
  • 1/3rd of all oceanic plastic is within the great Pacific Garbage Patch (C√≥zar et al, 2014)

Ecological effects

  • At least one million seabirds, and one-hundred thousand marine mammals die each year due to plastic pollution (Laist, 1997)
  • Lantern fish in the North Pacific Gyre eat up to 24,000 tons plastics per year (Davidson & Asch, 2011)
  • The survival of many species, including the Hawaiian Monk Seal and Loggerhead Turtle, could be jeopardized by plastic debris (Derraik, 2002)
  • Plastic pollution is a carrier of invasive species, threatening native ecosystems (Barnes, 2005)

Economic effects

  • Marine debris causes an estimated $1.27 billion (U.S) in fishing and vessel damages in the APEC region annually (McIlgorm et al., 2008)
  • The costs of removing debris from beaches is on average $1,500 (U.S), and up to $25,000 (U.S) per ton (APEC 2009)
  • Plastic pollution causes over an estimated $ 13 billion globally each year (UNEP 2014)

Health effects

  • Toxic chemicals (including PCBs and DDTs) are adsorbed by the plastic, increasing the concentration a million times (Mato et al., 2001)
  • After entering the food chain, these persistent organic pollutants bioaccumulate in the food chain (Tanaka et al., 2013)
  • Health effects linked to these chemicals are: cancer, malformation and impaired reproductive ability (Takada, oceanhealthindex.org)