The Guardian reports that scientists have revealed that plastic dumped into the seas around the UK is carried to the Arctic within two years where it does “extreme harm” to the fragile polar environment.
The reason plastic is so harmful is that most plastic is not biodegradable. This means it can't naturally decompose and break-down like most organic materials. Most plastic is therefore extremely durable, leading to large plastic debris and “microplastics” waste fields that spread from rivers to the oceans from the Arctic to the Antarctic
Marine plastic pollution is a huge problem because the plastic is often mistaken for food by fish and birds, causing damage to life throughout the seas.
“There is so much plastic in marine animals at the moment,” said scientist van Sebille who has said that they find plastic in almost every fish and bird.
There is fast-growing evidence of direct harm to animals that eat plastics, including young fish starving and birds being weighed down, van Sebille said. Furthermore, chemicals in the plastic are absorbed by them add to the harm, he said: “The small pieces of plastic become very potent pills, full of toxic chemicals.”
This affects the entire ecosystem, he said: “As soon as one group of animals gets impacted, then other species get impacted, either because they don’t have food anymore, or because they are eating animals which have eaten plastic, so they get it inside them too.” It is likely humans consume plastic when eating seafood too.