When scientists assessed the amounts of marine litter, particularly plastic introduced mostly from land-based sources, but also from ships, petroleum platforms etc., they realised that a huge quantity was missing. While we might not be sure about the details, we do observe it is breaking down into increasingly small pieces over time, many of which are being mistaken for food by sea birds and all kinds of marine life, including whales. The last strandings of whales, e.g. one off the Netherlands in early 2014, revealed dozens of kg of plastic in the stomach - leading to starvation and death. Other parts are thought to be sinking down and being carried through marine currents all over the huge ocean ecosystem. Plastic debris of different size has been found literrally from top to bottom of the water column in the ocean. That's scary.

As plastic gets washed into the sea through improper deposits, landfills, storm surges and other run-off in huge quantities the best thing to do is to use as little as possible in our daily lives.

Something you and me and everybody else can do:

Start by learning more about marine litter - e.g. from specialist Thomas Maes reporting on the Mundus maris website. Click here.

A recent film illustrates many facets of plastic in the ocean and what we've learnt about the harmful effects already.

One of the easy things to do is, for example, not to use disposable plastic bags. Use reusable cotton bags, baskets or other containers for your shopping.

Discuss with staff in the market and supermarket to do away with excessive wrapping and bring your own containers, paper or cotton bags, etc. for carriage and storage instead of plastic. The additional bonus is that the food will not be contaminated by softeners and other unhealthy molecules leaking out of the plastic with time.

Contact your national or European elected member of parliament and ask, what the legislators are doing to stop excessive use of plastic and the littering of our oceans. Demand phasing out disposable plastic bags, where these are not yet phased out and encourage debate about how to curb the overboarding use of plastic as wrapping and in other short-term use, much of which will eventually end up as litter in the ocean and return to haunt us in the seafood we eat.

Play the beach litter reporting game offered free of charge by the European Environment Agency.

Participate in beach clean-ups e.g. at World Oceans Day, 8 June.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. your experience with reducing plastic use and clean up. Send a picture and a short explanatory text for posting on the website or facebook page. Our own members and partners in different parts of the world are already involved in action on the ground, example Nigeria. Our partners in Cameroon, Bénévoles des Océans, are taking it further in recycling and promoting a circular economy. Take part, be creative in reducing your use of plastic and help keep precious petroleum, formed in millions of years, only for long-lasting advantageous use as plastic.