Waste Not Want Not… The War On Plastic!

A story that has taken over the news recently is the sheer amount of plastic in our oceans and the adverse effects its having on wildlife and ecosystems. It is thought that there is more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating in our oceans and weighing in at a massive 250,000 tonnes, this is equivalent to 1000 Statues of Liberty, that’s a lot of plastic! There have been viral videos of straws being pulled out of turtle’s nostrils and fish and sea birds being cut open and piles of plastic spilling out, proving to be truly harrowing and distressing scenes and hopefully a wake up call for us as a society of the direct impact we are having on our surroundings. However, there is hope, through the use of nifty gadgets and a change in the materials we use, the war on plastic can, and will be won!

A photograph of an Albatross filled with plastic. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The Seabin

A product known as the Seabin strives to clean our oceans of this plastic, the Seabin can collect 1.5kgs of debris a day this equates to ½ a tonne of debris per bin per year which is a huge amount! They’re often placed in strategic positions in marinas and similar areas which have a lot of debris in them. The Seabin has a pump that draws water and plastic in the water is pumped back out but the plastic remains in the bin .


Plastic microbeads have proven to be quite a nuisance. You might have seen them in your personal care and cosmetic products as they’re often used as exfoliants.

Something particularly dangerous about plastic microbeads is their ability to adsorb harmful pollutants onto their surface, which provides these harmful pollutants a way into the food chain when the microbeads are consumed by fish and other creatures, ultimately leading to bioaccumulation in the food chain.

What is bioaccumulation?

Bioaccumulation is the build-up of chemicals such as dioxins and mercury, in fish. This can end up being really harmful to humans.

Earlier in 2017 the UK government gave the go ahead for a ban on rinse-off plastic microbeads due to the overwhelming evidence suggesting that they are causing havoc in the natural world. Of course this doesn’t deal with the huge amounts of plastic microbeads already in the ocean but it is a huge step forward in preventing these persistent bits of plastic from entering our oceans in the first place.

These are just two examples of many success’ in ridding the world of waste plastic. Of course there is plenty more work to be done. Perhaps after reading this blog post you feel inspired to get involved in some way but are perhaps unsure how to, if you live near the coast perhaps doing a local beach clean, or whenever you visit the beach aim to pick up 20 pieces of rubbish, anything you can do is helpful. Surfers Against Sewage have a really great website where you can see events happening in your area, click here to find out more.



Cheung, P. K., Fok, L., 2017. Characterisation of plastic microbeads in facial scrubs and their estimated emissions in Mainland China. Water Research, 122, pp. 53-61.

Eriksen, M., Lebreton, L., Carson, H., Thiel, M., Moore, C., Borerro, J., Galgani, F., Ryan, P., Reisser, J., 2014. Plastic pollution in the World’s Oceans: More than 5 Trillion Plastic Pieces Weighing over 250,000 Tons Afloat at Sea. PLoS ONE, 9(12), p.e111913.

Johnston, I., 2017. Microbeads ban: Government to outlaw microplastics in cosmetic products. Available: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/microbeads-ban-bill-uk-cosmetic-products-government-outlaws-microplastics-a7852346.html (accessed: 5 December 2017).

Jordan, C., 2009. Albatross at Midway Atoll Refuge. Available: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Albatross_at_Midway_Atoll_Refuge_(8080507529).jpg (accessed: 5 December 2017).

Michigan Department of Community Health, no date. What is Bioaccumulation? Available: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mdch/Bioaccumulative__Persistent_Chemicals_FINAL_354016_7.pdf (accessed: 5 December 2017).

Seabin Project, 2016. The Product. Available: http://seabinproject.com/the-product/ (accessed: 5 December 2017).

The Statue of Liberty- Ellis Island Foundation, Inc., date unknown. Statue facts. Available: https://www.libertyellisfoundation.org/statue-facts (accessed: 5 December 2017).

Wardrop, P., Shimeta, J., Nugegoda, D., Morrison, P.D., Miranda, A., Tang, M., Clarke, B.O., 2016. Chemical Pollutants Sorbed to Ingested Microbeads from Personal Care Products Accumulate in Fish. Environmental science and technology, 50(7), pp.4037-44.


Featured Image:

MichaelisScientists, 2016. 1682478-poster-1280-plasticbags.jpg. Available: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1682478-poster-1280-plasticbags.jpg (accessed: 5 December 2017).


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