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Around 70 per cent of all the litter in the oceans is made of plastic. Pollution of the environment with plastics is a global environmental problem; with plastic debris contaminating habitats from the poles to the equator and from the shoreline and sea surface to the deep sea. Plastic pollution results from a highly heterogeneous mixture of litter types differing in origin, size, shape and polymer type. Some of the most numerous items are discarded single-use packaging together with rope, netting and sewage-related debris. The majority of this litter originates from the land with rivers providing an important pathway to the sea.
Introduction to microplastics -
Around 300 species are known to ingest plastic litter in the environment. These range from small planktonic and benthic invertebrates to fish, birds and mammals. The potential for ingestion is greater with pieces in the microplastic size range (< 5mm). Evidence of harm caused by ingestion of microplastics show that ingestion can compromise the ability of planktonic organisms to feed and the ability of marine worms and fish to gain energy from their food. There is also concern that microplastics might facilitate the transfer of organic and inorganic chemicals. Current evidence suggests that microplastics are not likely to be a major vector in the transport of chemicals to organisms from seawater.
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