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Why is Plastic in the Environment a Problem???

Around 8-12 million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean every year, and if it continues there will be 1 ton of plastic to every 3 tons of fish in the ocean by 2025. Plastic has many consequences for the environment. For example, it may be a threat to animals, because they think it is food. This means that there are animals who choke on plastic or die from starvation.


When the plastic floats in the ocean, it can absorb environmental poisons and dangerous chemicals that the animals consume when they eat the plastic, and people ingest it when they, for example, eat fish. Plastic is also ugly when seen lying in nature, and it can clog streams and choke plants when it piles up.


Where is the plastic in the ocean coming from?


Plastic is discharged from several different sources. 80% of the waste that ends in the ocean comes from land-based activities (landfills, industries, storm drains, tourism, untreated water waste) and the remaining 20% comes from ocean-based activities (cruise ships, ferries, fishing, container shipping, off-shore industries like oil and gas platforms).


Which countries does most of the plastic in the ocean come from?


Approximately 60% of the plastic in the ocean comes from China, Indonesia, The Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. The reason why these countries have a high plastic pollution is because they are countries experiencing economic growth. This means that the population is buying more goods. This is happening without the countries having an effective waste disposal system. Instead it is nature (often rivers and other bodies of water) that is used as a trashcan, since there aren’t many other options.


However, it is important to remember that the countries where you see a lot of plastic pollution are often also the countries that produce a lot of the products that we in the West over consume without reflecting on the consequences.


What are the sources of micro plastic?


Micro plastic comes from several different places. It comes from usage of products such as dishcloths, plastic sponges, car tires and clothes made from synthetic fibres. It also comes from larger pieces of plastic that are lying in nature and slowly degrading into smaller and smaller pieces through waves and sunlight, for example. It can come from, for example, exfoliating creams, where micro plastic beads are added. It can also come from industries spilling the small plastic pellets that are used to make plastic. Most of the micro plastic ends up in nature and in the ocean because it is flushed out through the storm drains or with the runoff of rainwater.


How many animals die each year from plastic pollution, and what are the consequences for ocean life?