One of the biggest threats to our ocean is pollution. Plastics, in particular, have devastated the marine ecosystem. Improperly discarded on land, they eventually find their way into the sea – with devastating consequences for aquatic life and the habitats they depend on.
More than eight million tonnes of plastic waste pollute our ocean each year. The build-up of plastic litter is a testament to everything we use just once in our daily lives, from bottles and cups, to packaging and on down to plastics found in cigarette filters and straws. After a heavy rain, many of these items are washed from our streets out to rivers and then the sea, polluting coastal waters and eventually drifting offshore. Here they break down into ever smaller pieces, eventually becoming microplastics, which can be found everywhere in the global ocean.
The harm caused by plastic pollution is wide ranging. It chokes wildlife above and below the waterline. An estimated one million sea birds and an unknown number of sea turtles die each year as a result of plastic debris obstructing their digestive tracts, and marine animals of all sorts can become tangled and incapacitated by discarded fishing lines and plastic bags. The effects of plastics carrying toxicity throughout the marine food chain is still being researched, but the implications for human health are worrying.
of marine pollution originates on land
tonnes of plastic reach our oceans each year
Rapid urbanisation along the world’s coastlines has seen the growth of coastal ‘megacities’ (cities with a population of 10 million or more). 13 of the world’s 20 megacities are situated along coasts. These growing urban populations put pressure on ageing or inadequate waste management infrastructure. Implementing effective waste reduction initiatives, including comprehensive rules around what can enter the waste stream and what will be recycled, will be key to improving the healthy longevity of our oceans.
To create change on the global stage, under the Commonwealth Blue Charter, the United Kingdom and Vanuatu are working together to lead the this Action Group on Marine Plastic Pollution, also referred to as the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance (CCOA).
Recognising that the problems of plastic pollution cannot be solved by government actions alone, CCOA will bring together member countries, businesses and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from across the Commonwealth to commit to action on plastics, share best practices, leverage funding and push for global action.
tonnes of plastic are produced each year
of marine pollution is made up of different types of plastic
floating plastic pieces estimated to be in every square mile of ocean
the length of time a plastic bottle can last in the marine environment