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The Top 15 Plastic Pollution Facts 

1. Up to 422 million tonnes of plastic are being produced each year.1

This could weigh more than humanity, estimated at 316 million tonnes in 2013.

2. Up to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic enter the Ocean every year.2

If waste management practices don't improve, scientists predict this amount could increase tenfold by 2025.

3. Plastics make up to around 75% of marine litter, although this can be up to 100% at some sites.

Plastic in the Ocean breaks up into smaller fragments called microplastics, which have been identified in commercial fish consumed by humans.

4. Plastic in the Ocean breaks up into smaller fragments called microplastics.4

Plastic will never go away. These microplastics have been identified in commercial fish consumed by humans.

5. Half of all plastics are single-use applications, used just once and then disposed of.5

We are all guilty of this. But small behaviour changes can make a massive impact. The next time you are about to dispose of a plastic product, think about if you can reuse it for a different purpose. 

6. Plastic was invented 150 years ago.6

It never goes away it just gets smaller, making it harder to remove from the Ocean. Plastic is indestructible, it was designed to defy nature, and designed not to decompose. When we see the stat, 'plastic takes 450 years to decompose' we will never know this for sure, it has not been around long enough for us to put a time stamp on it.

7. Birds are highly susceptible to plastic ingestion.7

It is estimated that over 90% of all seabirds have ingested plastic.

8. There is no giant floating island of plastic at the centre of the Pacific or any other parts of the Ocean.8

The so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch is invisible from the surface however, plankton nets reveal the true nature of the problem which is an accumulation of microplastics that fill up each net in concentrations that increase towards the Ocean centre.

9. Plastic acts as a sink for chemicals in the environment, and transports them.9

When the plastic is mistakenly consumed by marine life these plastic chemicals are released and stored in the fatty tissue of the animal. They then travel up the marine food chain, magnifying in concentration on their way up.

10. Chemicals are added to plastic during its production.10

This gives the product certain properties and some known endocrine disruptors which have been linked to critical disease including, birth defects, cancer, autoimmune disease, infertility and cognitive and behavioural disorders.

11. Crustaceans tested at the deepest point of our Ocean, have ingested plastic.11

Animals from the deepest places on Earth have been found with plastic in their stomachs, confirming fears that manmade fibres have contaminated the most remote places on the planet.

12. People living along rivers and coastlines are the most impacted by plastic pollution.12

It's been reported that China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam are the most impacted.

13. Low-income communities face more health impacts near plastic production sites.13

These communities have greater exposure to toxins and waste, and bear the brunt of the impacts of improper plastic disposal and incineration.

14. Annual plastic production has skyrocketed since the early 1950s, reaching 322 million tonnes in 2015.14

These numbers do not include synthetic fibers used in clothing, rope and other products which accounted for 61 million tonnes in 2016. It is expected that plastic production will continue to increase, likely doubling by 2025.

15. Bioplastics – not as green as they seem, approach with caution.15

Though companies often market them under the same umbrella, a product is not necessarily biodegradable and may require very specific conditions to break down. They also do not solve the litter or throwaway culture problem.


Science Advances  30 Oct 2020: Vol. 6, no. 44, ​Lavender,  Starr, Siegler, Jambeck, Mallos, Leonard 

JR Jambeck et al. (2015). Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/3…

3  François Galgani (2015). Global Distribution, Composition and Abundance of Marine Litter. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.100…

4 CM Rochman et al (2015). Anthropogenic debris in seafood: Plastic debris and fibers from textiles in fish and bivalves sold for human consumption. https://www.nature.com/articles/srep1434…

5 J Hopewell et al (2009). Plastics recycling: challenges and opportunities. https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/1…

6 DKA Barnes at al (2009). Accumulation and fragmentation of plastic debris in global environments. https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/a…

6 DKA Barnes at al (2009). Accumulation and fragmentation of plastic debris in global environments. https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/a…

7 C Wilcox et al (2015). Threat of plastic pollution to seabirds is global, pervasive, and increasing. https://www.pnas.org/content/112/38/1189…

8 J. Ruxton pers. Obs. 2009

9  CM Rochman (2015). The Complex Mixture, Fate and Toxicity of Chemicals Associated with Plastic Debris in the Marine Environment. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.100…

10 F Gallo (2018). Marine litter plastics and microplastics and their toxic chemicals components: the need for urgent preventive measures. https://enveurope.springeropen.com/artic…

11. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-016-0051


13. http://www.fao.org/3/a-i7677e.pdf

14. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/dec/26/180bn-investment-in-plastic-factories-feeds-global-packaging-binge