We have failed at balancing the convenience of plastic in daily life (particularly single-use plastics) against causing severe ecological harm through careless disposal. The tremendous increase in production of plastic materials has led to an accumulation of pollution worldwide.
It is expected that by the year 2050, there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish. Floating plastic can harm ecosystem nutrient cycling and marine wildlife, via ingestion or entanglement. Larger plastic pieces (macroplastics > 5mm) are degraded by UV light and wave action into microplastics (< 5mm).
Each variety of plastic absorbs different types of chemicals and they have varying degradation rates in the marine environment. Identifying the composition and location of ocean plastics will help us predict their long-term effects and reveal their ultimate fates. Uncovering the prevalence and location of distinctive plastic types can help us pinpoint the major source.
The information from this study would be of interest to policymakers interested in cutting down on the most prevalent types of pollution that are ending up in the saltwater fish we eat.
Through sound science and impactful engagement, we can solve this global issue.