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How does plastic waste end up in the ocean?

by Mimmi Sandstroem |

Always wondered how all this plastic ends up in the ocean? Keep on reading to find out how.

We started Seastraws in response to the problem of plastic waste in our oceans. What's great is that many of us are now aware of the problem and want to change things for the better. 

But, solving the crisis of plastic waste in our oceans begins with an understanding of how it has been created in the first place. 

Unfortunately, many people are confused about how exactly the plastic we use in our homes and when out and about ends up in our oceans. 

"80% of the litter in the seas comes from the land."

Approximately 80% of the litter in the seas comes from the land. But, how does the plastic we use in our homes end up in the ocean? 

It is important to realise that almost all of us will contribute to this problem in some way. Individuals and households contribute to plastic pollution through:

 coffee cup lid littering

Littering

One of the direct ways that plastic ends up in our waterways and oceans is through littering. People leave plastic bottles and other picnic items on beaches and these are blown to the rivers or shores by the wind.

Littering is a problem but it is the less well-known causes of plastic pollution that are the main problem.

 

recycling factory

Non-Recycled Plastic Household Waste

We can all do our bit by recycling whatever plastic waste we can. But recycling alone is not enough. 

Contamination can be a big problem. Most plastics are not recyclable. Even that which is recyclable is often not recycled – sometimes due to contamination but often also for economic reasons. 

Often, recycling businesses simply do not find it profitable to recycle lower-grade plastics. That too can result in more plastic ending up in a landfill.

Plastic on route to landfill, or at landfill sites can easily be dropped or thrown away, ending up in the environment. It is carried by wind and rain to our waterways, and much of it ultimately finds its way to the sea. 

 

cosmetic microbead plastic

Plastic Down the Drain

Another way in which lots of plastic makes it from our homes into the oceans is through our drains. 

Microbeads in cosmetic products are one major source of plastic pollution. These are too small to be filtered out by wastewater plants and may end up in water that flows eventually back to the ocean. 

People also flush other plastic items down the drain.

Another important source of plastic pollution of which many people are unaware of is fibres from synthetic clothing. When synthetic clothing is washed in a washing machine, plastic fibres will be washed down the drain. 

 

train commute big city

Driving a Car

Plastic items often erode as they are used and tiny pieces of plastic will become detached and enter the wider environment. 

This is another source of plastic pollution. One example of this, which has a significant impact, is driving cars and other vehicles. This is yet another reason when trying to live in a more sustainable and eco-friendly way, to drive as little as possible. 

 

Businesses and Authorities

Of course, plastic also comes from commercial and industrial sources. Businesses and authorities also have important roles to play in reducing the plastic that ends up in our oceans. 

Waste coming from factories and other enterprises also accounts for a large proportion of the plastic waste that ends up in the marine environment. 

But, consumers who buy the products made by such factories and businesses are themselves directly contributing to the problem. 

In order to stop ocean plastic pollution, we must all withdraw our support for these damaging systems and lobby for sustainable change.

 

Let's turn this thing around!

If you've read up to here you'll have a better understanding of how we ended up with the plastic pollution we're currently facing. But, you'll also know what to do to make it better.

Please share this information with as many as you can so we can turn this thing around together!

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