It’s a serious problem: plastic pollution of the oceans. But where does that come from? A new study answers: A lot of waste comes from food packaging and ends up in the oceans from countries with good waste disposal systems.
Every year between 307 and 925 million waste particles larger than European rivers end up in the oceans. These waste particles, in turn, arise primarily from the packaging of prepared meals and drinks. This is what biologists from the University of Cadiz in Spain discovered. The research has been published in Nature Sustainability.
The researchers studied coastal areas across Europe, including the coasts of the North Sea and Wadden. In terms of origin, Turkey (16.8 percent), Italy (11.3 percent), the United Kingdom (8.4 percent), Spain (8.21 percent) and Greece (6.7 percent) are the largest contributors to marine litter.
Most plastic waste enters the sea through rivers. There it lingers for a while in coastal waters, where it washes regularly ashore. During this process, the plastic rips, making the chips smaller and smaller. These flakes eventually float to the open sea, where they sink to the bottom.
There, the plastic ends up in marine animals, which are often hunted for human consumption. This way, people eventually eat their plastic.