Piles of Microplastics

Fish swimming near the seafloor

Piles of Microplastics

Deep sea currents circulate nutrients and oxygen to the seafloor. Unfortunately, that’s not the only thing they’re leaving behind…

With a nickname like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, it’s only natural that the image that comes to mind is an island of floating rubbish – fishing nets tangled up with toothbrushes and tampon applicators, car tyres bobbing next to plastic bottles and takeaway containers.

But people who have been say it’s much closer to a plastic soup, filled with millions of pieces of microplastics – smaller pieces worn down from the original item, microbeads from toiletries and fibres from textiles.

‘Of the 10 million tonnes of plastic that enter the ocean every year, only about 1% floats on the sea surface. Most plastic ends up in the deep sea, including microplastics.’

This video from the journal Science brings new research to life, showing how deep sea-currents are driving large deposits of microplastics to continental shelves. It also shows how this plastic drift coincides with the deposit of nutrients and oxygen that fosters a diverse collection of marine wildlife and plants. That’s a worrying discovery as we know microplastics entering the food chain in the ocean make their way quickly up to our plates.

‘Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.’ Jacques-Yves Cousteau

To take action on plastic pollution, sign up for Plastic Free July – challenging yourself to eliminate some form of single-use plastic in your everyday life – and join a campaign group like Surfers Against Sewage who are lobbying governments and corporations to change the throwaway culture and systems they helped create.