Plastic Reaches Deepest Ocean Trenches

Reader Contribution by United Nations Environment Program
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Plastic is one of the most serious threats on our oceans today, with millions of tons of plastic dumped into the ocean annually. Some of the latest studies have shown that single-use plastic has now reached the deepest parts of the ocean, and has spread widely throughout the ocean.

The extension of this plastic problem has reached even further than researchers thought possible. Most recently, plastic bags have been discovered in the Marina Trench – the world’s deepest ocean trench – 10,898 meters below the surface. Finding plastic this deep in the ocean reveals the devastating link between human activity on land and the consequences from marine life below water.

Through 5,010 dives that have collected 3,000 pieces of manmade debris, research has shown that 89 percent of plastic in the ocean is single-use plastic items, such as plastic utensils and plastic bags. Much of the plastic is also discarded from fishing boats, such as cut fishing lines or lost fishing hooks.

Plastic in the ocean can last for thousands of years without breaking down over time. Plastic in the ocean also causes the death of over 100,000 marine animals every year, which is commonly found in the stomachs or around the necks of larger sea creatures, such as sea turtles of whales. This is especially concerning for oceanic ecosystems, since these ecosystems have very slow growth rates. Ocean ecosystems are already being impacted directly by human activity, such as deep-sea drilling and mining, but our use of plastic now has an immense indirect effect on marine life.

Particularly in recent years, many projects have begun to clean up our oceans as much as possible, putting extensive research into new methods of ocean clean up. Many volunteers have worked all around the world cleaning up trash washed up on the beach, or pulling plastic out of the ocean directly.

Cleaning up our oceans is more important than ever, with more and more plastic being dumped into the ocean every day. Our only hope to reverse this problem is to cut back on our plastic-use on land, lessening the amount of plastic that finds its way into the oceans. Groups such as World Conservation Monitoring Centre have worked to help raise awareness about how our plastic use effects the environments around us, and to take action against the growing problem.

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