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How does plastic get into the oceans? © Getty Images

How does plastic get into the oceans?

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Most of the plastic plaguing our oceans came from inland and it will be down to everyone – individuals, governments and industry – to tackle this problem.

Asked by: Tamsin Nicholson, via email


Around 80 per cent of the plastic waste found in the oceans today originated inland. Littering, poor waste management and industrial activity can all allow plastic to enter the natural environment.

A significant proportion of this then blows into rivers and streams, which carry it into the ocean. This is particularly common in countries where waste infrastructure is lacking: an estimated two billion people worldwide don’t have access to solid waste collection.

On top of this, wastewater from our homes often contains tiny pieces of plastic, including microbeads from cosmetics (now banned in the UK) and fibres from polyester clothing. Tackling plastic pollution therefore requires individuals, governments and companies across the globe to work together to reduce plastic consumption and waste.

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