Problem Statement
Marine plastic pollution is on course to double by 2030 and triple by 2040 in an unsustainable rate without changing course. Plastics and microplastics, which comprise 85% of marine pollution, contaminate the worlds’ water supplies, causing substantial harm to public health, economies. and the environment (UNEP, 2021). In large part it is due to the improper disposal of plastic waste which can take hundreds of years to decompose. During that time not only does it harm marine life but it can even enter the food chain. To combat this issue. it is crucial that we all take responsibility and make a concerted effort to reduce our plastic use and ensure that we dispose of plastic waste properly. It is crucial to take the necessary efforts to ensure we are doing all we can to protect the ocean and the lives that depend on them remain safe and healthy for future generations.
Impact of the problem/Root cause
I. Reasons for the problem
Plastic consumption is has continued to increase.
Large amount of litter found on beaches comes from plastic debris and plastic products.
Single use plastics like plastic straws and food wrappers contribute to a large amount of the plastic waste.
Waste management is unable to recycle most plastic. as a result it ends up in the ocean and landfills.
I. Effects of the problem
Thousands of marine lives are deadly affected. Plastic waster carries organisms and non-native bacteria to new areas that can endanger the species that inhabit it.
Wildlife is also affected when they mistake plastic items for food.
Humans are also affected by the toxins that are released into the air when plastic is incinerated.
Microplastics can infiltrate our water and food consumption.
II. Recommendation/strategy to reduce the problem
Use reusable bottles.
Stop purchasing items with microbeads. These are microplastic scrubbers found in products like toothpaste and facial scrubs.
Continue to recycle and do so properly.
Stop using plastic bags. Use tote bags when shopping.
Participate in beach or river cleanup.

Marine Plastic Pollution: A Growing Threat to Public Health, Economies and the Environment
The issue of marine plastic pollution has become a pressing global concern in recent years. According to recent estimates from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), plastic pollution in oceans is on track to more than triple by 2040 if no immediate action is taken (UNEP, 2021). As the world’s population and economies continue to grow rapidly, so too does our reliance on cheap, disposable plastic products that are designed for single-use. However, the majority of plastics are not biodegradable and can persist in the environment for centuries, breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces known as microplastics (Andrady, 2011). This poses substantial risks to public health, economies that rely on ocean resources, as well as the environment if left unaddressed.
Causes and Impacts of Marine Plastic Pollution
There are several key factors contributing to the growing crisis of marine plastic pollution worldwide:
Rising global plastic production and consumption. Between 1950 to 2015, global plastic production increased from 1.5 million tons to 380 million tons per year (Geyer et al., 2017).
Poor waste management infrastructure in many regions. Most plastic waste is not recycled and ends up in landfills or the natural environment (Jambeck et al., 2015).
Proliferation of single-use plastic products. Items like plastic bags, straws, food wrappers, bottles, and packaging make up a significant portion of beach and ocean litter (UNEP, 2014).
The impacts of marine plastic pollution are extensive and pose risks to both ecosystems and human health. Seabirds, sea turtles, fish and other marine species ingest or become entangled in plastic debris, which can lead to injury, infection, and death (Wilcox et al., 2015). When these animals are consumed by humans, microplastics may also enter the food chain and human diet (Lusher et al., 2017). Trillions of microplastic particles also absorb and concentrate toxic chemicals in seawater, posing further risks (Rochman et al., 2013). The economic costs of marine plastic pollution, including impacts on tourism, fishing and shipping industries, are estimated at $13 billion annually (UNEP, 2014).
Recommendations for Action
To effectively address this growing problem, a multi-pronged approach will be needed involving government policy changes, industry action, and shifts in individual consumer behavior. Some recommendations include:
Implementing nationwide bans or fees on problematic single-use plastic items like bags, straws, cutlery and Styrofoam containers (UNEP, 2021).
Improving waste management infrastructure in high plastic leakage areas through investment in formal waste collection services and recycling facilities (Jambeck et al., 2018).
Engaging plastic producers to curb overproduction through sustainable design and by making them responsible for post-consumer waste management (Geyer et al., 2017).
Educating the public about plastic pollution risks and empowering lifestyle changes like refusing unnecessary plastic, recycling properly, and participating in coastal cleanups (UNEP, 2014).
With coordinated global efforts, the growing threat of marine plastic pollution can be reversed. But urgent action is needed to protect ocean health, economies and public wellbeing for future generations.
References:
Andrady, A. L. (2011). Microplastics in the marine environment. Marine pollution bulletin, 62(8), 1596-1605.
Geyer, R., Jambeck, J. R., & Law, K. L. (2017). Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made. Science advances, 3(7), e1700782.
Jambeck, J. R., Geyer, R., Wilcox, C., Siegler, T. R., Perryman, M., Andrady, A., … & Law, K. L. (2015). Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. Science, 347(6223), 768-771.
Lusher, A. L., Welden, N. A., Sobral, P., & Cole, M. (2017). Sampling, isolating and identifying microplastics ingested by fish and invertebrates. Analytical methods, 9(9), 1346-1360.
Rochman, C. M., Hoh, E., Kurobe, T., & Teh, S. J. (2013). Ingested plastic transfers hazardous chemicals to fish and induces hepatic stress. Scientific reports, 3(1), 1-7.
UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme). (2014). Valuing plastics: the business case for measuring, managing and disclosing plastic use in the consumer goods industry. Nairobi: UNEP.
UNEP. (2021). Addressing Single-Use Plastic Products Pollution Using a Life Cycle Approach. Nairobi. https://www.unep.org/resources/report/addressing-single-use-plastic-products-pollution-using-life-cycle-approach
Wilcox, C., Van Sebille, E., & Hardesty, B. D. (2015). Threat of plastic pollution to seabirds is global, pervasive, and increasing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(38), 11899-11904.

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