360 Debris

SeaChange Infographic PlasticPollution Final

The Problem

Nearly nine million tons of plastic waste enters the ocean every year. This debris affects fish and wildlife through choking or entanglement. It also poses an additional threat through the release of toxic chemicals from plastic material as it breaks down, and through the almost invisible danger known as ‘microplastics’.

Microplastics are tiny plastic particles, created either by the ocean grinding down larger pieces of plastic waste or introduced directly into the ocean as ‘microbeads’, such as those used in beauty products. Microplastic particles can be consumed by fish, seabirds and filter feeding marine animals such as shellfish, tubeworms and zooplankton as they filter the ocean water for their food or they may be eaten by smaller organisms that mistake these tiny particles for their natural food, which can have toxic effects or starve them to death.

Microplastics also put our supplies of healthy seafood at risk through contamination. Studies have demonstrated the ability of plastic to take up toxic substances and metals, which are present in trace quantities in almost all water bodies. Plastics, along with the toxic substances and metals they soak up, can enter the bodies of marine animals (e.g. zooplankton) upon consumption. It is thought that these contaminants can increase in concentration as they climb the food chain (referred to as ‘biomagnification’) - from tiny plankton to large predatory fish like tuna, salmon, and swordfish - and could ultimately reach humans at more toxic levels through consumption of seafood.

What Can We Do?

Tip 1: Use a biodegradable paper straw or drink straight from the glass rather than using plastic drinking straw.

Tip 2: Fight hidden plastic by refusing to use cosmetics that contain plastic microbeads. Beware of products containing polyethylene and polypropylene - if neither of these are listed in the ingredients, you're microbead-free!

Tip 3: Carry your own reusable water bottle instead of buying bottled water.

Tip 4: Choose metal cutlery over plastic.

Tip 5: Don’t put any products containing plastic (such as Q-tips, sanitary products or sticking plasters) down the drain or toilet.

Tip 6: Choose biodegradable or reusable plates over plastic plates.

Tip 7: Use reusable shopping bags (preferably cloth) over disposable plastic bags.

Tip 8: Compost your organic waste to use fewer rubbish bags.

Tip 9: Reuse, recycle and opt for no packaging when possible (e.g. through packaging-free shops).

Do you have any tips? Let us know on Twitter using #OurOceanOurHealth.

Useful Resources: Microplastics

Useful Resources: Marine Litter:

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About the Project

Sea Change is an EU H2020 funded project that aims to establish a fundamental “Sea Change” in the way European citizens view their relationship with the sea, by empowering them, as Ocean Literate citizens, to take direct and sustainable action towards a healthy ocean, healthy communities and ultimately a healthy planet.

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Our Ocean, Our Health

The ocean makes planet Earth a habitable place to live and the marine environment is a source of vital human health benefits.

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The Sea Change consortium consists of 17 partners from nine different countries, coordinated by the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom.

This consortium, which comprises nine public research organisations, one SME, five non profit organisations and two higher education institutions, brings together selected experts to collectively provide the knowledge, competence, skills and facilities needed for ensuring a good project development, the achievement of project objectives and the successful delivery of project results.


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    Jon Parr
    Sea Change Coordinator
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    Sea Change Coordinator

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