Plastic is wreaking havoc in the ocean and on land because it lacks a single but important feature, it is non-biodegradable. About 150 million metric tons of plastics are in the ocean with a further eight million metric tons added annually. Every piece of plastic that is manufactured cannot be undone, it is either recycled, converted into something else, or dumped into the ocean or landfills. It was once thought that plastic could only be found along the coastline but it has been found in the Mariana Trench which is the deepest point in the ocean. About five trillion pieces of plastics can be found floating in the sea most of which are found in garbage patches such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Plastics in the ocean vary in size from pieces as large as an SUV to small microplastics.
Oceans with the Most Plastic Pollution
Plastic is occasionally dumped along the coastline but can be found hundreds of miles in the ocean because of ocean gyres. A gyre is a large system of circulating ocean currents characterized by large wind movement.
North Pacific Ocean
The North Pacific Ocean is the most polluted of the world's oceans. It holds an estimated two trillion pieces of plastic representing a third of the total plastic found in the ocean. The North Pacific Gyre piled up the garbage between Japan and the United States forming to form the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
The Indian Ocean holds 1.3 million pieces of plastic. In 2010, the Indian Ocean garbage patch was discovered the Central Indian Ocean and is a result of the Indian Ocean Gyre. Both the Indus and Ganges Rivers are listed among the ten rivers with the highest level of pollution and both drain into the Indian Ocean.
North Atlantic Ocean
The North Atlantic holds about 930 billion pieces of plastic. Most of the plastics are found in the North Atlantic garbage patch that foams within the North Atlantic Gyre. The North Atlantic is sandwiched between Western Europe, West Africa, the east coast of the United States, and Northeast South America. These zones are contributing significantly to the pollution of the ocean.
South Pacific and South Atlantic Oceans
The South Pacific and South Atlantic are the least polluted oceans with 491 billion and 297 billion pieces of plastic respectively. Although both oceans have gyrases, human activities are limited. They are both located in the Southern Hemisphere which is less inhabited compared to the Northern Hemisphere. These oceans are also located farther away from the ten rivers that contribute to 90% of the plastic pollution in the ocean.
Cleaning and Conservation Effort
The fate of the oceans seems to have been decided because removing the plastics is not among the proposed plans. The most viable option is to minimize the plastic that is dumped into the ocean. However, despite numerous efforts by marine and environmental conservationists, more plastic is finding its way into the ocean.