What does the solid waste pollution look like?

Plastic litter in the sea - the most important answers

Our seas are suffocating in plastic. Marine animals and birds regularly die in the garbage, and people struggle with the effects of the global flood of garbage every day.

In Southeast Asia in particular, in the world-famous “Coral Triangle”, massive amounts of plastic waste put an incredible biodiversity at risk. If we do theimpending collapse if we want to avert the seas, we have to act quickly and stop littering at the source, i.e. make sure that waste is avoided and that all waste is collected and does not end up in the environment. Everyone is asked - politicians, companies, environmental organizations such as the WWF as well as consumers all over the world: together we can stop the flood of plastic.

How much rubbish is floating in the seas?

A current estimate of the global input of plastic waste into the oceans is based on4.8 to 12.7 million tons per year out.That corresponds to a truck load per minute. Only a small part of the plastic waste floats on the surface, the rest is transported into deeper waters or on the seabed and can hardly be retrieved. It is currently estimated that around 80 million tons have accumulated there.

Why is the garbage a danger to seas and marine animals?

Estimated to be over800 species of animalswho live in seas or in coastal areas,affected by plastic waste. That almost affects themHalf of the marine mammal and seabird species. Sea turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, which they normally feed on, and perish as a result.

By 2050, plastic parts will probably be found in the stomachs of almost all seabirds if the garbage continues to be washed into the sea in many places. Plastic in the stomach affects the digestive tract of birds, which starve to death because it makes them feel satiated.

Habitats such as coral reefs are also affected by deposits of plastic waste. Plastic waste floating around damages coral sticks and also transports pathogens that are harmful to the corals into the reef. In addition, every year between 57,000 and 135,000 whales, seals and harbor seals get caught in “fishing waste”, ie lost and discarded ropes and nets.

Many plastics contain substances that are harmful to the environment and health such as flame retardants or plasticizers, some of which are released in the sea. These pollutants are absorbed by marine animals and sea birds when they swallow plastic parts. Research has shown that thisSubstances in plastic have a harmful effect on mussels, fish and mammals to have.

Microplastics damage marine organisms

Another problem is so-called microplastics. Solid, water-insoluble plastic microparticles that are five millimeters or smaller are defined as microplastics. Microplastic is z. B.used in cosmetics or selected industrial products.

In addition, the plastic microparticles can also result from the disintegration or abrasion of larger plastic parts, e.g. B. by Tire abrasion or abrasion of plastic fibers when washing clothes.

Scientific studies have found microplastic particles in many fish species. In laboratory tests with partly increased concentrations areharmful effects of microplastics on some marine organismssuch as B. mussels have been detected.

The effects of plastic microparticles on humans have not yet been researched. However, microplastics can be ingested by humans through food (e.g. fish and marine animals) or the air. However, it is questionable whether the exposure to pollutants through the ingestion of microplastics is higher than the intake through other paths, for example when handling plastic products that contain harmful substances.

One of the most important causes of plastic waste entering the oceans is Mass distribution of single-use plastic and the lack of structures for collecting and processing waste.

In emerging and developing countries, significantly less than 50 percent of waste is collected, in many rural regions even less. The main reason for this is that garbage collection, disposal and recycling often cannot be publicly financed due to a lack of funds and companies do not participate in the financing either.

Most of the people in these countries can be So don't dispose of waste properly, there is simply a lack of infrastructure for this. As a result, garbage piles up on land and, especially in Southeast Asia, is washed into the sea en masse, especially via rivers.

In addition, the ""Garbage disposal" from ships on the high seas a problem. Instead of dropping off the garbage in the ports, some ship's crew - despite all the prohibitions - throw their garbage overboard. In addition, fishing boats sometimes lose their nets, which are then called "Ghost nets“Float in the seas and trap marine animals. It is estimated that around a tenth of the plastic waste in the oceans comes from fishing.

What responsibility do we have in Germany for garbage in the sea?

Garbage is also carried into the oceans from European countries. The Mediterranean Sea, for example, is one of the world's most heavily polluted marine areas.For example, 11 kilograms of garbage per square kilometer were found on the floor of the North Sea, mainly plastic. Around a third of the litter input comes from shipping and fishing, and a third from tourism and leisure activities on land and at sea. In the Baltic Sea, most of the inputs come from the tourist use of the beaches.The estimates of the input of plastic waste from land- and sea-based inputs from EU countries are between 207,000 and 353,000 tons per year. In addition, there are microplastic particles that are carried by sewage treatment plants, wastewater discharges or drifting from land via rivers into the seas.

Germany has also been exporting large amounts of waste for many years, especially commercial waste (e.g. production waste), to Southeast Asia, which is not worth recycling here. So far, the main destination has been China; since China's import ban, the garbage has mainly been shipped to Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam. Even there, however, not everything is generally recycled.So there is a risk that the rest will end up in the sea. That could be avoided if more waste could actually be easily recovered and recycled. This is not the case at the moment, not even here in Germany. The economy is therefore required to bring significantly more environmentally friendly and recyclable packaging and materials onto the market.

Plastic does not belong in the environment.Of the 78 million tons of plastic packaging worldwide, 32 percent end up in the environment - this amount is far too high. Worldwide, it must be ensured that all waste, if it cannot be avoided, is completely collected and recycled in a circular economy. But a functioning waste management and the development of a circular economy must first be established. And this usually fails due to insufficient funding.

In many European countries, the consumer goods industry and theAllow retailers to share in the disposal costs for packaging. In the newly industrialized and developing countries, too, the economy must take responsibility for the products and packaging they put on the market and share in the disposal costs.

But that's only the first step.Packaging must be total designed to be more suitable for recyclingso that the highest possible recovery is possible. At the same time, the use ofPromote recycling materials.

In the case of ship waste, an intelligent reward system at the ports could ensure disposal so that the waste is not simply thrown overboard. And if fishing nets were marked, they could be reported as lost - in the event of loss - and found again more easily.

Aworldwide ban on adding microplastic particles to productssuch as cosmetics would help protect marine ecology from further environmental pollution. Other sources of microplastics, such as abrasion from tires or textiles, are more difficult to avoid. Solutions here can be design changes to the products or improved filter stages in sewage treatment plants.

The WWF focuses its activities on theStop the entry of plastic waste at its source: So theAvoiding plastic waste and improving waste collection and recycling systemsin the affected countries, especially in Southeast Asia. With its presence in these countries, the WWF has created good conditions for tackling this issue together with other actors.

Oninternational level WWF is committed to ensuring that theImproved framework conditions for waste collection and recycling in the polluting countries become.

This is how the WWF is committed topolitical level for a global agreement that provides an internationally binding political framework for aImproving integrated waste management and creates a circular economy.

At the same time, the WWF demands theEstablishment of an "extended product responsibility" for companieswho manufacture products and packaging or place them on the market. Since the waste collection systems are underfunded in most countries, the private sector has to contribute to the disposal costs. For this purpose, legal frameworks must be created at the federal state level, which theBetter regulate the disposal of (plastic) waste and create the conditions for a circular economy. The WWF supports these activities by addressing political decision-makers, public relations work and discussions with representatives of professional associations.

The WWF has its own branches and project offices in the states from which most of the plastic waste is discharged into the oceans. Therefore currentlyat the local level (e.g. in Vietnam, Hong Kong or the Philippines)Projects against the entry of garbage into the oceans set in motion.

What can each individual do?

In Germany, too, every consumer can make a contribution to reducing the waste of resources and the entry of plastic into the environment:

  • Avoiding disposable products (bags, disposable dishes, disposable coffee mugs) when shopping, on vacation, etc.
  • If possible, packaging-free purchase, z. B. in packaging-free shops or unpackaged goods on the market
  • Support the circular economy and properly separate your waste. Instructions for this are available on the websites of many municipalities or at the Federal Environment Agency
  • Participate in community clean-up actions - plastic waste on the banks of streams and rivers can end up in the sea at some point
  • Throw rubbish into the provided containers or take it back with you when you go on a beach holiday
  • avoid products that contain microplastics

And:To stop the global flood of plastic, a global movement is needed that calls on politics and business to become part of the solution. Less and better packaging is needed. We need rules for better waste management and effective measures to protect the seas and coasts. Consumers can, for example, also ask manufacturers of consumer goods such as beverages, cosmetics or food what responsibility they take on globally for their packaging waste and call on them to act in an exemplary manner.

Support the WWF in the fight against the plastic flood

  • Petition: Let's end the plastic flood in our seas

    Sign the petition now! Continue reading ...

  • plastic

    Plastic waste threatens the environment, the oceans and, in the end, us too - that's why we have to act now. Continue reading ...

  • Microplastics

    Small, often invisible microplastics arise from significantly more sources than previously thought. It is therefore all the more urgent to act quickly. Continue reading ...

  • Ghost nets

    The entry of plastic into the oceans pollutes marine life. According to the latest studies, ghost nets make up 30 to 50 percent of marine plastic. Continue reading ...