The Plastic Tide is rising...
The Plastic Tide is growing by 8 million metric tonnes a year. If nothing is done, it is estimated that this figure will rise to 80 million metric tonnes a year by 2025.
This tide does not recede. It consists of all sizes of plastics, with larger pieces taking at least 400 years to break down, into fragments known as microplastics, which could take hundreds of thousands of years to break down completely.
The impact of this synthetic tide is pervasive. Increasingly, studies are showing how our oceans are being swamped quicker than we had thought. From clogging the deepest depths before we have even explored them, to starving the birds that soar above the ocean surface, this is a problem that affects all marine life. But it also has increasing impact on human life too, from toxicity to rising economic costs.
The majority of us are unaware of the menace of the growing tide of plastic, with most people only catching a glimpse of the problem when they visit beaches on holiday. Even then, the popular beaches we visit will be cleaned regularly, so the biggest impacts are still hidden.
In the UK alone, a recent Marine Conservation Society report indicated a 250% increase in plastics washing up on our beaches in the past ten years. But this didn't show where, how extensively or how systematically the plastics were distributed, or how the rate of influx changes over time.
Worryingly, while we can estimate how much plastic is already in, and is entering, our ocean, we can't say for certain where it goes.
This is a major concern for scientists trying understand how plastics impact our ocean and lives. So far we can only account for 1% - the plastics on the ocean surface.
So, how much of the missing 99% ends up on our coasts...?