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 Ocean Plastic Explained page as well as our research about the persistent organic pollutants on the plastic.