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© Pacific Garbage Screening e.V.

BY 2050, THERE COULD BE MORE PLASTIC THAN FISH IN OUR OCEANS

PLASTIC IN THE OCEANS

The oceans and seas are the basis of all life on earth, but humans are increasingly destroying it. More than ten percent of plastic ends up in the oceans worldwide.

In 2015 322 million tons of plastic were produced worldwide, and that number is rising every year. The pile of plastic garbage grows each day. Most of the plastic produced since 1959 can be found in its original form in landfill sites, in nature, in our rivers and in our oceans.

This is one of our biggest environmental problems of our time, and something we don’t currently have a solution for.

© Esther Gonstalla, aus "Das Ozeanbuch" (oekom Verlag)

HOW DOES THE PLASTIC END UP IN THE OCEAN?

Every minute a full garbage truck dumps its load somewhere in the world’s oceans. Which amounts to 8 million tons of plastic a year. If we keep putting that much garbage into our oceans, the amount will be quadruplicated by 2050.

Worldwide there are five major garbage patches, created by humans and shaped by the ocean’s currents. The ocean’s plastic is concentrated in these patches and slowly breaks down into little pieces.

In all parts of our oceans, plastic can be found. The complex system of currents moves the plastic into the most distant corners of the world. The amount of plastic in the world’s ocean is estimated to 150 million tons. That is roughly a fifth of the weight of all the fish in our oceans.

Researchers expect 1 ton of plastic per 3 tons of fish by 2025. If we do not drastically reduce the consumption of plastic, there will be the same amount of plastic as fish in the oceans by 2050.

WHY DOES THE PLASTIC NOT DISAPPEAR?​

Based on mineral oil, plastic has a very long, durable lifetime. The degradation rate of a specific product depends on the composition of the plastic material and the environmental conditions.

A PET-bottle breaks into steadily smaller particles over the period of roughly 450 years, until it cannot  be seen by the naked eye anymore.

Plastic is not biodegradable and therefore never disappears completely. More than 100,000 marine mammals, millions of sea birds and fish die yearly from plastic they consume or get tangled in.

© Esther Gonstalla, aus "Das Ozeanbuch" (oekom Verlag)

© Esther Gonstalla, aus "Das Ozeanbuch" (oekom Verlag)

MICROPLASTIC IN THE FOOD CHAIN​

A microplastic particle becomes highly toxic when it absorbs harmful substances and passes them on to other marine organisms through the food chain.

1. Phytoplankton

Single-celled plants, which live in the upper water layer and perform photosynthesis with the help of sunlight

2. Zooplankton

Animal Microorganisms, who subsist on phytoplankton. Surrounded by microplastic particles in similar sizes

3. Microplastic

Plastic particles up to 5 mm big, who break apart in the ocean water over the years and draw in and accumulate persistent organic pollutants (POPs)

4. Herring

Subsists on little fish and zooplankton including microplastic, chemical substances like POPs can get into the organism’s digestion system

5. Tuna fish

Subsists on little fish like Herring. The consistant intake of POPs sums up to a big amount.

6. Humans

Subsists on fish and mussels. Europeans intake up to 11,000 microplastic particles per year with a mean consumption of fish. The percentage that stays in the human body is still unknown.

PLASTIC AND CLIMATE CHANGE

Plastic has a considerable influence on the climate change. The production of plastic releases CO2 which enters the atmosphere. The CO2-Emissions influence the global warming and the rising temperature in the oceans.

The ocean of the future will be warmer and more acidic with severe effects on coral reefs, the biodiversity and the marine food chain.

Coral Reefs cover only 1/1000 of the ocean floor surface but there are living ¼ of all known organisms of marine life.

The corals fade and die because of the rise in temperature. Another danger for corals is plastic waste which is rubbing against the coral’s surface. It destroys the surface of the coral that took thousands of years to create. The plastic particles block essential daylight due to the shade they create.

25% of marine organisms depend directly on the coral reefs. The essential requirements for marine life are taken away by the decline of coral reefs – with drastic effects on the whole ecosystem.

© Melina Hansch (melight.de) für "Pacific Garbage Screening"

CLIMATE CHANGE VS PLASTICS

© Esther Gonstalla (Autorin "Das Ozeanbuch") in Zusammenarbeit mit "Pacific Garbage Screening"