What's it all about?
By 2015, 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic waste had been produced worldwide. A large part of this plastic waste, around 79%, ended up in the environment directly or via landfills. In 2010 alone, 4-10 million tonnes of plastic were discharged into the world's oceans, mainly from land (Geyer et al. 2017).
What is the problem?
Larger pieces of plastic, so-called macroplastics, are not only unsightly but become a danger to animals in the water and on land. Dolphins get tangled in fishing nets, turtles eat plastic bags they think are jellyfish, and birds die from the plastic in their stomachs. Over time, macroplastics break down into smaller and smaller pieces. When they are smaller than 5mm they are defined as microplastics (Bergmann et al. 2015). The microplastic particles absorb chemicals and bacteria from the environment and transport them into our food chain (SAPEA 2019).
What can I do?
Reduce the use of single-use plastic in everyday life. The best way is to stop the plastic flood where it originates: in our consumption. Packaging waste in particular is a big problem. Picking up plastic and disposing of it properly helps the environment, raises the awareness of others about the problem and increases our own satisfaction. Once you start, you can't look away.