Key Issue

Plastic Pollution

Plastic pollution is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century. Our insatiable demand for plastic has turned this material into an environmental and public health nightmare.

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Plastic Pollution

Statement of issues

Plastic pollution is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century. Our insatiable demand for plastic has turned this material into an environmental and public health nightmare.

Plastic pollution is everywhere, but the impact on the ocean is now massive. Over 80% of ocean plastic is from land-based sources, mostly through poor waste management systems. Of the comparatively small amount of ocean-based sources, accidents during shipping and abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) are among the chief sources.

Plastic harms marine animals when they become entangled in pieces of floating debris, or mistake pieces of plastic for food, which cannot be digested.  When pieces of plastic floating in the ocean are exposed to sun, wind and water degradation, they break up into ever smaller and smaller pieces, making them nearly impossible to clean up.

Plastic debris also acts as a sponge for chemical pollutants in the ocean. These toxic chemical-laden pieces of plastic can bio accumulate (where pollutants build up in an individual organism over time) as well as bio magnify (where the contamination level multiplies at each level of the food chain). For the 3 billion people around the world who rely on fish as their main source of protein, the exposure to these toxins is alarming: many of them are endocrine disruptors, chemicals that interfere with hormone systems, and pre-natal or early life exposure can lead to irreversible effects, such as infertility.

In dealing with this issue, it is essential to stem the flow of plastic at the source: educating the public on the importance of refusing single-use plastics, working with manufacturers to change product design to consider a closed-loop cycle of resources and improving waste management capacity, particularly in the developing world.

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- Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute United States Visit Website
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    Education & Plastic pollution

    Materials for learning

    Our aim is the same: to provide education on sustainable actions to young people in order to inspire them to take action.

    United Oceans provides a platform for organizations working on marine education to collaborate with others who share that mission. Our aim is to enable users to identify duplication and create efficiencies to make a more effective message

    In this way, the critical messages about marine education can be shared on a scale beyond the reach of a single, or even a few organizations.

    PFC – Plastic Free Campus

    A study and action guide for schools to reduce and eliminate single-use plastics. Developed by the Gallifrey Foundation and now being adopted for use by international schools worldwide

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    Glossary

    Missing a term?

    Have you found a term that you really would like to know the definition for? You are probably not alone. Send us the term and let us know the context you have seen it used in and we will research and try and add it to our Glossary with a definition.

    Arctic

    Of all the major oceans, only one, the Arctic Ocean, hasn’t been fished, polluted, drilled into for oil and gas or traversed by heavy fuel oil powered ships. Let's keep it that way.

    Climate Change

    At the front line of climate change, the ocean plays a central role in regulating the Earth’s climate - a critical role we must protect for our own sake.

    Conservation

    Human population has reached critical mass – It has taken 4.5 billion years for our biosphere to develop and in 4.5 decades we have damaged it perhaps beyond repair.

    Deep sea mining

    There are sources of minerals in the deep sea but we must first understand how to manage and mitigate the risks that come with extracting them.