Ensia

8 maps show plastic’s impact on the world’s oceans — and what’s being done about it

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Courtesy of Ensia

The world’s oceans are awash in plastic pollution, and as these maps and charts show, the situation is poised to worsen unless drastic changes take place.

Over the coming decades global plastic production is slated to increase nearly sixfold, and collection and recycling systems in many parts of the world already are struggling to keep up with the proliferation of plastic products and associated waste.

Broadly speaking, plastic pollution comes from three main sources: single-use applications such as food packaging and disposable consumer goods; long-lasting plastic items, including pipes and construction materials; and durable consumer products such as electronics and furniture.

The impacts of plastic — and in particular, microplastic — on marine life can be devastating. Hundreds of species of seabirds, turtles, seals, sea lions, whales and fish have suffered entanglement or death due to plastic pollution in recent decades.

This collection of maps and charts prepared by Norway-based GRID-Arendal — a United Nations Environment Programme affiliate and partner with a mission of creating environmental knowledge to enable positive change — explains how plastic ends up in the world’s oceans and explores steps being taken to reverse this trend.

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