Because plastic is such a persistent material, the ecological, economic and eco-toxicological effects of plastic pollution are all long-term. These include:

  • Physical impact on marine life: entanglement, ingestion, starvation
  • Chemical impact: the buildup of persistent organic pollutants like PCBs and DDT
  • Transport of invasive species and pollutants from polluted rivers to remote areas in the ocean
  • Economic impact: damage to fisheries, shipping, and tourism

In recent years, the amount of attention focused on very small plastic particles has increased dramatically, but little is yet known about their long-term effects on the environment. The microplastics The Ocean Cleanup is focused on preventing is the so-called secondary microplastics, i.e. plastic fragments resulting from the breakdown of larger plastic debris at land and sea.
For more information, see our Great Pacific Garbage Patch page (under What are the Effects on Marine Life and Humans) as well as our research about the persistent organic pollutants on the plastic.