The plastic litter problem is deeper than we may think
Plastic litter from objects such as disposable plastic bottles and plastic bags are a huge concern to our environment. When disposed of, they can take hundreds of years to decompose, and during that time they release dangerous greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Another large concern is the danger these plastic items pose to wildlife, particularly sea creatures. According to Ocean Crusaders, between 13,000 to 15,000 pieces of plastic end up in the ocean every day – and these items can then kill marine animals when they ingest them or become tangled in them.
Despite our knowledge of this problem, you may still be under the impression that the sea is relatively clean – or perhaps you think plastic rubbish is limited to areas of the sea close to cities?
Think again. A new study shows litter can be found as deep as 4.5 kilometres below the sea, and as far as 2,000 kilometres from land.
The study was led by the University of the Azores and was contributed to by 15 European organisations, and was a collaboration between the Mapping the Deep Project by Plymouth University and the HERMIONE Project, coordinated by the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton.
As many as 600 samples were collected from depths between 35 metres and 4.5 kilometres in the Atlantic Ocean, Arctic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea by scientists during the study.
Litter was found in every site tested, and plastic accounted for 41 per cent of all litter found. Other items of rubbish observed included derelict fishing gear (34 per cent) as well as glass, clothing and pottery.
Associate Professor at Plymouth University Marine Institute, Dr Kerry Howell, stated, "this survey has shown that human litter is present in all marine habitats, from beaches to the most remote and deepest parts of the oceans. Most of the deep sea remains unexplored by humans and these are our first visits to many of these sites, but we were shocked to find that our rubbish has got there before us."