A recent global assessment indicated that cigarette butts, whose filters contain small plastic fibers, were the most frequent sort of plastic debris detected in the environment. The next most prevalent items were drink bottles, bottle caps, food wrappers, grocery bags, drink lids, straws, and stirrers. Finally, plastic toys, equipment, or parts account for the remaining material found in the ocean.
The report also noted that plastic pollution poses a particular threat to marine animals by consuming useful nutrients and materials needed by other organisms. Additionally, the study suggested that microplastics, which are particles less than 5 mm in length made up of plastic fragments, have become widely distributed in environmental samples. These tiny particles can enter the food chain when consumed by fish or other organisms at the top of the food chain.
Currently, the main type of plastic is polyethylene, which is used for containers, packaging, and toys. It is also used to make fencing, sheds, and household appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioners. Polypropylene is another common plastic used for food packaging and bottles that are not discarded after one use. It is also employed for furniture components, carpeting, fences, and toys.
Plastic waste has become a major problem in many countries across the world. Although much of this waste is recycled, there is a lot of contamination in the recycling process that makes it difficult for manufacturers to re-use plastic products.
Cigarette butts are still among the most prevalent forms of marine litter discovered. According to the Ocean Conservancy's 2018 International Coastal Cleanup Report, 2,412,151 cigarette butts were recovered globally in 2017. The report also estimated that if current smoking rates remain the same, then 1 in 5 cigarettes would be discarded into the sea.
The next most common type of waste found in the ocean is fishing gear. An estimated 14 million tons of fishing gear lies on the ocean floor - this includes nets and traps used to catch fish as well as plastic bags and containers that hold or filter out water while scuba diving. This material poses a threat to marine animals who can get their legs entangled in it or ingest small pieces of debris while feeding.
Marine debris comes in many forms. It includes items such as trash, wood, bones, and other materials that have been dumped into our oceans intentionally or unintentionally. Items commonly found in the ocean include plastic bottles, food packaging, oil tankers, and even entire ships that have been lost or abandoned.
When objects enter the ocean, they tend to degrade into smaller and smaller pieces over time. Overfishing, pollution, and natural processes like sedimentation remove large organisms that would break down larger debris. As an example, only 7% of original barrels from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill were found intact after 13 years.
1 Page two Cigarette butts, plastic beverage bottles, plastic bottle caps, food wrappers, plastic shopping bags, plastic lids, straws and stirrers, and foam take-away containers are the most prevalent single-use plastics discovered on beaches.
2 Page three Of these items, cigarette butts account for 70% of all marine litter. The other major type of litter is from plastic beverage bottles, which make up another 15%. Food packaging accounts for about 7% of all pollution caused by litter.
3 Page four Plastics have been found in every ocean region where they have been searched, which means that they can be dumped in any place where water flows into the sea. At least 50% of all fish caught in U.S. waters are contaminated with plastic. Scientists estimate that this adds up to approximately 100 billion particles of plastic per year. That's enough material to fill more than half of all US fishing boats!
4 Page five Plastic has become a part of our ecosystem and affects both animals and plants. Animals eat the plastic (or try to), digest it, and then throw it up back onto the beach. Over time, this can cause serious health problems for birds and mammals who consume the debris. Plastic can also enter the ocean through river runoff or melting snow. As it melts, the metal inside the plastic can then work its way into the water supply.