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30 / Apr / 2020IUCN
Plastic, silent invader of the seas
Eight million tons of plastic waste is estimated to flow into the oceans each year, jeopardizing biodiversity in marine ecosystems.
The versatility and low cost of plastic have made this material one of the most widely used in various areas, so much that it is practically impossible to imagine a life without it. However, pollution from plastic waste is a worldwide problem that affects marine ecosystems, as it threatens their conservation and puts food security and coastal tourism at risk, not to mention that it also contributes to climate change.
The problem and its repercussions
According to data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Close the Plastic Tap Program, it is estimated that at least 8 million tons of plastic are discarded in the oceans every year. This makes floating plastic debris the most abundant item in marine litter.
Inadequate waste management, industrial activities, beach litter and the remains of fishing nets are the main factors responsible for plastic in the oceans.
But plastic waste that is seen with the naked eye is just the tip of the iceberg, as it has been shown that once plastic is released into our oceans, it does not biodegrade. Instead, it fragments into small particles, called microplastic, that is, plastic with less than 5 millimeters, which contains toxic chemicals that are harmful both to the organisms that consumes it directly, and to other species, including to humans to which reaches through trophic interactions.
Accidental ingestion of these wastes by marine biodiversity is one of the negative effects that has the greatest impact on our oceans. In addition, the plastic that enters the food chains in marine ecosystems contributes to the spread of bacteria and organisms that disturb other ecosystems.
Efforts from IUCN
There are currently different initiatives to improve our understanding of the problem and the impacts of plastic in marine ecosystems. In this sense, IUCN has carried out different analyzes, and supported policies and programmatic actions in different countries to better understand the scope of plastic pollution.
All these initiatives are framed under the IUCN Close the Plastic Tap Program, which includes at least 10 different projects in different countries, in order to find solutions and combat plastic pollution from its source. The idea is to have a better understanding of the effect of these wastes in order to generate appropriate technological and political strategies that lead to the solution of the problem.
For more information, visit the GMPP Resources page (Global Marine and Polar Program).
Written by: Inaira Rivero