Plastic pollution at sea is reaching worrying levels and will continue to grow even if significant action is taken now to stop such waste from reaching the world’s oceans, according to a review of hundreds of academic studies.
Some regions—such as the Mediterranean, the East China and Yellow Seas—already contain dangerous levels of plastic, while others risk becoming increasingly polluted in the future, it found.
The authors concluded that almost every species in the ocean has been affected by plastic pollution and that it’s harming important ecosystems such as coral reefs and mangroves.
As plastic breaks down into ever-smaller pieces it also enters the marine food chain, being ingested in everything from whales to turtles to tiny plankton.
Getting that plastic out of the water again is nearly impossible, so policymakers should focus on preventing any more of it entering the oceans in the first place.
Some of the studies showed that even if this were to happen today, the amount of marine microplastic would keep increasing for decades.