Around 120 million tonnes (132 million US tons) of single-use plastic items are produced each year, with much ending up in our oceans. Every year, around 8 million tonnes (8.8 million US tons) of plastic litter our oceans.
We already know that sea turtles often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, birds can become strangled by debris rings, plastics can pierce an animal’s stomach lining, and whales have been found with their stomachs filled with plastic bags rather than proper food.
To help combat some of this, England implemented a 5p charge for all single-use bags a few years ago. This reduced sales by more than 85 percent in the first six months, and has resulted in more than 9 billion fewer bags since its introduction. To truly turn things around, however, more needs to be done.
Plastics “already represent a potential hazard to marine life, but this research shows species might also be contributing to the spread of such debris,” said Richard Thompson, a marine biology professor from the University of Plymouth, in a statement. “It further demonstrates that marine litter is not only an aesthetic problem but has the potential to cause more serious and persistent environmental damage.”