[co-authors: Erin Eastwood, Justin Fisch, and Lara McDonough]
Ocean plastic pollution is a growing challenge that has captured the attention and concern of governments, businesses, and the public alike. As images and videos of ensnared sea turtles, smothered corals, and beached whales with plastic bags filling their guts continue to emerge, the global movement to prevent plastic pollution grows.
Nearly nine million tons of plastic waste flow into our oceans each year, arriving in many ways—ranging from polluted rivers and waterways to the wastewater from our washing machines. A recent study has found that without immediate and continuous action, the annual amount of plastic entering the ocean could triple by 2040. Once in the ocean, this pervasive plastic pollution is nearly impossible to clean up. Plastic can now be found in almost every marine habitat on earth—from Arctic sea ice to the deepest ocean trenches—and nearly 700 species have been documented to either ingest plastic or become entangled in it. We are only just understanding the impacts of plastic ingestion on food webs, and what happens when plastic and the often-toxic chemicals associated with it end up in the bodies or guts of the seafood we eat.
Originally published on The Environmental Law Reporter - December 1, 2020.