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A view of the plastic bottles on the beach and people walking in the background on a beach clean

Join the fight against marine plastic

Plastic pollution in the marine environment that causes harm to wildlife – and to humans – is an urgent issue.

Find out more about the issue and how the daily choices you take can make a difference. 


Marine plastic pollution – what’s the problem?

  • Some eight million tons of plastics ‘leak’ into the oceans every year, causing harm to marine wildlife – and to humans. 
  • Microplastics and floating patches of ‘plastic soup’ gathered together by currents out in the wild oceans have even been found in Arctic ice, as well as in the deepest parts of our oceans. 

Where does it come from?

A close up of some plastic on the beach tied in some netting
  • 80% of this plastic comes from land – as litter on beaches, as occasional sewage overflow or as rubbish washed downstream, particularly in countries with poor waste management systems.
  • Also, tiny pellets used in the plastics industry – known as 'nurdles' – escape into the sea through storm drains. These are the colourful little 'mermaid’s tears' scattered on shorelines worldwide.
  • Another 20% comes from shipping vessels and fishing boats. Fishing nets find their way into the sea from boats – known as ‘ghost nets’ – which entangles sea life. And when nurdles are transported by ship to be molded into products, they can end up overboard. 

Surfers Against Sewage have produced a really good infographic of this.

What harm does it cause?

  • Birds, fish and cetaceans get entangled in nets, and they also often mistake plastic for food. Ingested plastic litter has been reported in over 250 marine species. 
  • Even larger pieces of plastic are broken down into particles by sunlight, wind and tides – and some plastics start off microscopic anyway, as microbeads in beauty and personal care products (like showergels, facial wash, scrubs and toothpastes). 
  • When fish mistake tiny pieces of plastic for food, this is passed up the food chain – right up to humans. So it is definitely our problem. 

What are the solutions?

Shop for plastic-free

Photo credits

Main photo credit: Brian Yourasits; in-body image credit: Angela Compagnone