If you go out to the beach with your pretty eco-responsible swimsuit , above all avoid leaving any plastic objects behind. It is estimated that up to 13 million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean every year. Fish, seabirds, sea turtles and marine mammals are the main victims of this plastic debris. But humans are not immune to this threat either. This is because while plastic takes hundreds of years to fully break down, some plastic debris breaks down much faster into tiny particles, which in turn end up in the seafood we eat.

The consequences of plastic waste in the ocean

According to the latest studies, half of the sea turtles in the world have already ingested plastic. Some starve after doing so, mistakenly believing they have eaten enough because their stomachs are full. On many beaches, plastic pollution is so prevalent that it affects turtle reproduction rates by altering the temperatures of the sand where incubation takes place. And that, the ethical swimsuits of the people who frequent these beaches can do nothing about it.

A recent study found that sea turtles that ingest just 14 pieces of plastic have an increased risk of death. Young turtles are particularly at risk because they are not as selective about what they eat as their older ones and tend to drift with currents, much like plastic.

Plastic waste kills up to a million seabirds a year. As with sea turtles, when seabirds ingest plastic, it clogs their stomachs, blocking their diet. Many seabirds are thus found dead with their stomachs full of this waste. Scientists estimate that 60% of all seabird species have ingested pieces of plastic, a figure that is expected to rise to 99% by 2050.

Although dolphins are highly intelligent and therefore unlikely to eat plastic, they are susceptible to contamination through prey that have ingested these synthetic compounds. The plastic in our oceans thus affects many creatures, large and small. Seabirds, whales, dolphins, the tiny seahorses that live in coral reefs… as well as the schools of fish that reside on these same reefs and the nearby mangroves.

Plastic waste can also support the growth of pathogens in the ocean. In fact, according to a recent study , scientists have found that corals that come into contact with plastic have an 89% chance of contracting a disease , compared to 4% for corals that do not. Unless action is taken quickly to address this pressing issue, scientists predict that the weight of ocean plastics will exceed the combined weight of all fish in the seas by 2050.

Where does this plastic waste come from?

Bordered by Europe to the north, Asia to the east and Africa to the south, the Mediterranean Sea contains marine litter from land-based sources in 21 countries on three separate continents. Land-based sources make up the majority of marine pollution and typically include tourist and recreational use of the coast (e.g. swimmers in ethical swimwear), local industry and businesses, general public waste, landfills illegal, unprotected ports and landfills.

Ocean sources of marine litter, on the other hand, include merchant shipping, ferries and cruise liners, commercial and recreational fishing vessels, military fleets, research vessels, pleasure craft and offshore installations. , such as oil and gas platforms, drilling platforms, and aquaculture sites.

Can we clean up the plastic already in the ocean?

Many ideas and projects propose to recover plastic from the ocean, but none have been proven to be truly effective. In general, these projects only target plastic fragments floating on the surface and are generally not able to collect plastic particles smaller than 1 cm. This means they omit over 99% of the estimated plastic in the ocean.

Therefore, the amount of plastic that could be removed by these methods is infinitesimally small compared to the plastic already in the ocean and what continues to enter the ocean every day. But that shouldn't stop you from wearing your sustainable swimwear and helping to save the environment.

May 03, 2020 — Customer Success