15 Essential Ocean Pollution Facts and How You Can Help

The amount of plastic in our oceans is concerning, and the problem is not going away on its own. As divers and ocean lovers, we are more aware of the problem than the general public. So here as SSI, we think it is our responsibility to help clean the seas and to spread important information to those who do not get to see ocean pollution first-hand.

In this article, we have put together 15 facts about plastic pollution and what you can do about it to protect our beaches and oceans from harm. So, let us jump straight in.

Ocean Pollution: 15 Facts You Need to Know

1. Every year, about 8 million tons of plastic waste escapes into the oceans from coastal nations.

2. According to the WWF, an ocean area more than two and a half times the area of Greenland could exceed ecologically dangerous concentrations of microplastics by 2100.

3. Fifty per cent of all plastics ever made have been manufactured in the last 15 years.

4. In 2018, 30 kilograms of plastic was found in a sperm whale’s digestive tract after it died on a Spanish beach.

Christmas is just around the corner. Check out these 7 Eco-friendly Gifts for Divers. 

5. Some marine environments (including hotspots like the Mediterranean, the East China and Yellow Seas and the Arctic sea ice) have exceeded a safe level of plastic pollution already.

6. Plastic can take hundreds of years to degrade, and even then, it does not disappear. It becomes microplastics, which enter the digestive systems of marine life, and therefore us too.

7. Microplastics have been found in more than 100 aquatic species, many of which are caught for human consumption.

8. It is estimated that there are about 50-75 trillion pieces of plastic and microplastics of plastic and microplastics in the ocean.

9. It is estimated that up to 1,000,000 marine animals are killed each year by plastic pollution via entanglement or ingestion. Those included are turtles, whales, sharks and seabirds.

10. Between 13,000 and 15,000 pieces of plastic are thrown away every day.

11. Plastic bags and similar flexible plastics are said to be the most dangerous for the ocean.

12. Turtles and other marine animals often eat plastic bags because they look similar to squid and jellyfish floating in the water.

13. Recycling is an excellent tool, but it is not the solution. Only 9% of plastic is currently recycled.

14. By 2050, plastic is likely to outweigh the total fish in the sea.

15. Garbage patches are plastic accumulation areas in the ocean. The biggest is the Great Pacific garbage patch which is estimated to cover an area of 1.6 million square kilometers. This is twice the size of Texas and three times the size of France.

With issues like climate change and human impact, our coral reefs are in trouble. Find out why here: Coral Reef Conservation: Is it too late to save reefs?

How you can help reduce ocean pollution

Although these ocean pollution facts and stats are extremely worrying, it is not too late to start doing more to reduce the problem. There are small changes that you can make in your day-to-day life that can reduce ocean pollution and make a big difference in the long run:

Ditch single-use plastics

Plastic grocery bags are still not banned in many countries, and in some, they will charge you a small fee to buy one. But it is so easy to carry a reusable shopping bag that you can keep in your backpack or car ready for when you do your shopping.

On top of grocery bags, reusable water bottles, steel or bamboo straws can be used instead of single-use plastic ones. Instead of accepting single-use containers and cutlery for takeout food, carry your own washable set as well.

Once you get into the habit of carrying these items around with you, it is easy to avoid single-use plastics.

Top swap: Ocean Bottle flasks and water bottles. Each purchase funds the collection of 11.46 kilograms of ocean-bound plastic.

Find your nearest refill store

Many essential products unfortunately come in single-use plastic packaging, but thankfully refill stores are easy to find in populated areas and online these days.

These refill stores allow you to stock up on things like rice, pasta, flour, laundry detergent, shampoo, and soap by simply filling a reusable container like a glass jar. This small change will soon add up when you see how much single-use packaging you no longer use.

Top swapEthique plastic-free hair and body care products.

Ditch plastic wrap

Cling film/plastic wrap cannot be recycled, and some theories claim that covering your food in plastic can lead to you consuming toxins. Ditch the plastic and invest in some reusable beeswax wraps instead. Alternatively, keep your leftovers in jars or glass Tupperware.

Top swap: We love these whale shark beeswax food wraps by BeeBee & Leaf.

Are you a diver who wants to be as eco-friendly as possible? Check out these: 10 Top Tips for Sustainable Diving.

Think about your bathroom items

Some people do not consider the plastic waste they create in their grooming routine. Here are a few examples of easy changes you can make: switching bottled shampoo to shampoo bars, switching from liquid hand soap to a soap bar, using reusable razors instead of disposable ones, and using a bamboo toothbrush instead of a plastic one. These are just a few ideas for being more eco-conscious in the bathroom.

Top swap: Stream2Sea reef-safe sunscreen in bio-resin packaging.

Organize a clean-up event

Cleaning up beaches, lakes, or any place in nature is an amazing way to help the ocean pollution issue. You can set up your own clean-up event and share it on social media to encourage others to join or see if your local SSI dive center has clean-up events scheduled. 

Spread the good word

Perhaps the most important thing you can do to reduce ocean pollution is to share your knowledge with others. Many people simply do not realize the severity of the ocean pollution issue.

Sharing this article on your social media is a great way to inform others and encourage them to make these easy lifestyle changes too.

Thanks for caring about our beautiful oceans and seas!

Get inspired and connect with other divers by joining our new Underwater Explorers Worldwide Facebook community today. Together we can make a difference!