How much plastic is really in our oceans?

How much plastic is really in our oceans? - Ocean Refresh

A study published in the Journal Environmental Pollution, has revealed that there might be more than double the amount of tiny plastic particles in the world’s oceans than than we previously thought!

A UK team of scientists led by the Plymouth Marine Laboratory collected approximately 2.5 times more plastic from UK and US coastal waters, when using coarser mesh nets as opposed to the traditional mesh nets they usually use.

What’s more than that, the scientists gathered ten times more plastic particles when using coarse sampling nets.

Co-lead author, Dr Matthew Cole explained, “Typically scientists use specialised nets to sieve out microplastics from the sea surface. Normally these nets are quite coarse so they don’t get clogged up with microscopic plants and animals that life in the sea, but it also means they’re unable to sieve out the very smallest plastics that are present.” Whilst it’s understandable that scientists opt for less coarse nets in order to protect the marine life – has this caused us to underestimate the plastic pollution pandemic? And what implications could this have on the environment, humanity and marine life?

Indeed, the team behind the research suggest that this research could have global ramifications for estimates of the amount of microplastics floating around in the oceans. When using the traditional sampling nets, it was estimated that there are between 5 to 50 trillion particles in the world’s waters. However, using the latest findings to calculate the plastic pollution pandemic, it is estimated that there could be between 12.5 to 125 trillion particles. If this figure is accurate, it could mean that plastic poses a far greater threat to marine life than previously assumed. Smaller microplastics are more likely to be ingested by small marine life, the zooplankton which form the basis of marine food chains. It also means there is a far greater risk the plastic will travel up the food chain and into humans.

It is vital that we understand more about smaller microplastics present in the oceans, since they can have far greater implications on marine life, the environment and humanity. More research needs to be conducted so we can understand reverberations of microplastics in the ocean.

Most of us don’t have access to resources that would allow us to research plastic pollution. But that’s okay – you don’t need to be a scientist to help combat the issue. It’s no secret that microplastics end up in the ocean when people don’t recycle correctly. So as long as we do our part, switch out single-use plastics for sustainable ones and make sure we recycle correctly. Then rest assured we are doing our part in helping to tackle this pandemic.

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