Plastic is interlaced with nearly every aspect of human life, from plastic bags and food packages to car parts and cellphones. But once it enters the ocean, plastic can remain there for hundreds of years, breaking down into even smaller pieces that are more costly and difficult to remove. The plastic is also deadly to marine life, who mistake it for food and starve as it fills their stomach.
As of 2017, factories had produced a cumulative 8.3 billion metric tons of new plastic, and only 9 percent of that amount has ever been recycled. Plastic packaging and single-use items enter the waste stream immediately after use and account for 61 percent of the litter scattered across beaches. But debris can be found in just about every corner of the ocean, including remote islands, the two poles, and even the deep seafloor.
In an effort to reduce the amount of plastic waste entering marine waters, Pew will work with governments, industry, scientists, and other nongovernmental organizations (or civil society) to better understand this global problem and offer solutions.