How much plastic is in the ocean?

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Sunset (Image by Sergei Tokmakov, Esq. from Pixabay )

With the awareness of plastic pollution comes a time where even the passionate have trouble answering some questions and the one that names this post is one of them.

A question some of us might have asked ourselves at some point. And even though, it is a damn good one, the answer is somewhat not very precise.

Varying in size, shape and colour, most plastic debris has one thing in common: indestructibility. Some plastics float in the water, some are eaten by fish and others sink to the bottom of the ocean. So, it is difficult to quantify how much plastic there is in the ocean.

However, a 2014 research article entitled Plastic debris in the open ocean[1] tried to give you - and us - an answer for that title question.

Using data from multiple sources like the Malaspina 2010[2], regional surveys and published reports, scientist aimed to show a clearer picture of plastic debris in surface waters of the open ocean.

The research consisted of 3,070 samples collected around the world; one of the findings was: particles smaller than 1 cm in diameter dominate the plastic pollution found on the ocean surface. A further look revealed that the majority of them ranged from 1mm to 5mm. These particles can be referred to as microplastics.

Green Firebreak, plastic pollution, save our seas, marine litter, how much plastic, ocean pollution
Plastic pollution in our oceans


The moment you’ve been waiting for - according to this research article - 88% of those samples contained plastic debris. To put it in a bit more perspective, 88% of the 3,070 samples collected all over the world contained plastic.

Like we said earlier – the answer is somewhat not very precise – however we can all agree that that is a remarkably high percentage, and when you take into account that this article was approved on June 6, 2014, and between that same year (2014) and 2019 globally we manage to produce more than half of plastics ever made.

88% is extremely alarming.

[1] Plastic debris in the open ocean | PNAS [2] The world’s biggest expedition on global change.