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I: The Great Plastic Tide: Magnitude, Scope, Extent

There was an error. General Comment wow this song is amazing. General Comment this is one of my favorites. General Comment such a cute song. General Comment Today in class I realized where this song came from. It comes from the Germanic legend of a girl named Lorelei, who had entrancing eyes and would lure men to her and she would give in to them. She had a lover who left her and she was devastated. She was brought before a priest for her actions and they wouldn't kill her, so they sent her to a convent.

She asked to be allowed to look at the Rhine river one last time. She told the knights that were escorting her that that man on the boat below was her lost lover. Lorelei then threw herself from the cliff she was standing on. Log in now to add this track to your mixtape! We do not have any tags for When Mermaids Cry lyrics. Why not add your own? Studies on small plastic pellet by Dr Richard Thompson and by Hideshige Takada, Yukie Mato professor of organic geochemistry at Tokyo University, have shown that plastic debris meeting other pollutants in the oceans absorbs harmful chemicals from the sea water they float in, acting like a pollution sponges.

According to Charles Moore, these resin pellets account for around 8 percent of annual oil production and are the raw material for the million tons of plastic consumed yearly worldwide. Lightweight and small, they escape in untold volumes during transport and manufacture and wash in the ocean. Even though these researches have been conducted on nurdles, it is crucial to keep in mind, as Dr. Takada team confirmed, that other types of plastic debris from fishing gear, shopping bags, to small fragments displays the exact same propensity as the nurdles of raw plastic resin to absorb toxins.

Plastic resin pellets are round, shiny and tiny, mostly less than 5mm in diameter. The very structure of the plastic material is oily and greasy basically plastics are solid oil therefore promoting the accumulation of hydrophobic contaminants ones that tend to repel and not absorb water from the surrounding seawater. In other words, waterborne hydrophobic pollutants do collect and magnify on the surface of plastic debris, thus making plastic far more deadly in the ocean than it would be on land. These findings, published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin , were based on samples gathered from 30 beaches in 17 countries.

The highest concentrations of DDT Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane , the most toxic of all pesticides, were found on the US west coast and Vietnam. Since plastics belong to a chemical family of high polymers, they are essentially made up of a long chain of molecules containing repeated units of carbon atoms. Because of this inherent molecular stability high molecular weight , plastics do not easily breakdown into simpler components. Plastics do decompose, though not fully, over a very long period of time in average to years. Commercially available plastics polyolefins like polyethylene, polypropylene, etc.

This means that soil microorganisms that can easily attack and decompose things like wood and other formerly living materials cannot break the various kinds of strong bonds that are common to most plastics. This depends upon the plastic polymer and the environment to which it is exposed.

The Marine Conservancy has published that the estimated decomposition rates of most plastic debris found on coasts are:. However, even though the decomposition process would not occur in much cooler seawater as Barnes mentioned, the oceans are vast, currents are constant and permanent, nothing stays static and furthermore, it seems that garbage patches where plastics accumulate, are to be found in even greater dimension in the South Gyres, in the tropical and sub tropical zones with very warm waters.

One of the researchers stated: In natural conditions, the tide comes in and sunlight heats the plastics [which increases decomposition].

Plastic Pollution

The process involved modeling plastic decomposition at room temperature, removing heat from the plastic and then using a liquid to extract the BPA and PS Oligomer that are not found naturally, thus must have been created through the decomposition of the plastic. Once degraded, the plastic was shown to release three new compounds not found in nature: Plastics are not metabolized subsequent to ingestion since they are polymers. On the other hand, low molecular compounds such as PS oligomer or BPA from plastic decomposition are toxic and can be metabolized!

Samples of sea sand and seawater collected from Europe, India, Japan and the Pacific Ocean were found to be contaminated, with up to parts per million of some of these components of plastic decomposition. This latest study clearly shows new micro-pollution by compounds generated by plastic decomposition to be taking place out of sight in the ocean, leaching toxic chemicals such as Bisphenol A BPA and derivatives of polystyrene.

The plastic litter defacing the beaches of the World, alarming in Hawaiian archipelagos for instance, led, only two decades ago, a couple of private and public teams of environmentalists and scientists to start conducting research regarding marine debris in the oceans.

Flyovers of the area have been conducted as well, but not in a conclusive way. The trash was not that obvious from the sky. Indeed, despite its size and density, the GGP is not visible from satellite photography because of its consistency, as Kaisei project and Scripps teams confirmed last August. The largest mass of the plastic pollution contains fragmented pieces of plastic, permeating the ocean, almost invisible to the naked eye, suspended at, or beneath the surface of the ocean. As evoked above, Charles Moore, a Californian sailor, surfer, volunteer environmentalist, and researcher, was crossing the Pacific Ocean while returning from a trans Pacific sailing race in He veered from the usual sea route taking a shortcut across the edge of the North Pacific Ocean.

He came upon an area, the Doldrums, a windless part of the ocean that mariners usually avoid. The area is filled with tiny phytoplankton, but few big fish or mammals, thus fishermen and sailors rarely travel through it. There, Charles Moore saw an ocean he had never known. Here I was in the middle of the ocean, and there was nowhere I could go to avoid the plastic. This area that Charles Moore came upon, the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, is a slowly moving, clockwise spiral or vortex of currents created by a high-pressure system of air currents.

Shocked by the extent of the plastic litter, Charles Moore went on alerting the world to the existence of this phenomenon. Media light was finally brought in force at that point. Human kind has walked on the moon since …yet the ocean was still quite an unknown frontier in our collective conscience.

It is a gyre of marine litter in the Central North Pacific Ocean stretching for hundreds of miles across the ocean 1, miles from California coast on the East, to Japan and Hawaii on the West. More specifically, a gyre is a large-scale circular feature made up of ocean currents that spiral around a central point, clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. Gyres make up to 40 percent of the ocean. That is 25 percent of the globe. All of them are accumulators of debris, Moore says.

Worldwide, there are five major subtropical oceanic gyres: That is soberingly self-explanatory: It is very difficult to measure the exact size of a gyre because it is a fluid system, but the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre is roughly estimated to be approximately 7 to 9 million square miles, approximately three times the area of the continental United States 3 million square miles. Gyres do potentially aggregate debris on that large a scale. As will be explained infra, the convergence zone is in itself another serious accumulator of traveling plastic debris. As material is captured in the currents, wind-driven surface currents gradually move floating debris inward, trapping debris in higher concentrations in the calm center.

Ocean currents carry debris from the East coast of Asia to the center, in less than a year, and from the Western US in about 5 years. It is not a stationary area, but one that moves and changes as much as a thousand miles north and south, and during warmer ocean periods, known as El Nino, it drifts even further south. The movements occur because the North Pacific Gyre is made up of four different currents: This movement sometimes brings the Western Garbage Patch within nautical miles of the California coast and causes extraordinary massive debris pile-ups on beaches, such as in the Hawaiian Islands and Japan.

Floating marine debris collection, seen from below. The name garbage patch has led many to believe that this area is a large and continuous patch of easily visible marine debris items, such as bottles and other litter, akin to a literal blanket of trash that should be visible with satellite or aerial photographs. This is simply not true. While larger litter items can be found in this area, along with other debris such as derelict fishing nets, the largest mass of the debris is small bits of floatable plastic.

We cannot emphasize enough that the GGP is now characterized by extremely high concentrations of suspended plastic debris for 90 percent, basically a soupy mix of plastic-filled seawater, made of tiny plastic debris that have been trapped by the currents and stretching for maybe thousands of miles, and that is the great problem.

It looks like beautiful ocean. But then when you put the nets in the water, you see all the little pieces. In sum, they estimated the patch area ranged in size from ,00 km2 to more than 15 million km2; the area may contain over million tons of plastic debris. Already in , a study by Charles Moore, sampling waters from the GGP, found that the concentrations of plastic there reached one million particles per square mile, topping the concentration of zooplankton plankton consisting of small animals and the immature stages of larger animals by a factor of six.

In , the published new research from the Algalita foundation team of scientists estimated that the number had doubled. In the summer of , Project Kaisei will launch its second expedition to the North Pacific Gyre where it will send multiple vessels to continue marine debris research and, in particular, to test an array of larger marine debris collection systems. The GGP is definitely not the only type of area where marine debris concentrates. Several other features within the ocean, including oceanic eddies and convergence zones, can lead to debris accumulation as well.

It is located along the southern edge of an area known as the North Pacific Transition Zone.

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This area does not have distinct boundaries and varies in location and intensity of convergence throughout the year. This unprecedented plastic waste tide appears as vast as the ocean, as ungraspable as the unfathomable mass of microscopic plastic fragments present at sea, transported by winds and currents, yet, ultimately, the plastic tide can become as limited as our chosen relationship with plastics, which involves a dramatic behavioral change on our part.

The path to successful resolution of the crisis clearly appears…as we are the problem and the solution. The despondent effects and too numerous casualties of the great plastic tide are visible, but more alarmingly, beyond visual, which ought to prompt the perpetrators to choose no other path than the advocacy and culture of consistent and sustained behavioral changes. From the whale, sea lions, and birds to the microscopic organisms called zooplankton, plastic has been, and is, greatly affecting marine life, i. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration said that plastic debris kills an estimated , marine mammals annually, millions of birds and fishes.

The largest pieces of marine plastic debris, miles long discarded fishing nets and lines mostly, take an obvious toll on animals. These derelicts nets, called ghost nets, snare and drown thousands of larger sea creatures per year, such as seals, sea lions, dolphins, sea turtles, sharks, dugons, crocodiles, seabirds, crabs, and other creatures.

Acting as designed, these nets restrict movement causing starvation, laceration, infection, and, in animals that need to return to the surface to breathe, suffocation. On shores, researchers have also watched in horror as hungry turtles wolf down jellyfish-like plastic bags and seabirds mistake old lighters and toothbrushes for fish, choking when they try to regurgitate the plastic trash for their starving chicks. In the waters, plastic bags specifically, can be mistaken as food and consumed by a wide range of marine species, especially those that consume jellyfish or squid, which look similar when floating in the water column.

Albatross and others birds are choosing plastic pieces because of their similarity to their own food as well. Captain Moore and his Alguita team did see, above the GGP, albatrosses and tropicbirds circling above the line of trash. With little else to choose, they were obviously eating plastic. Earlier in the trip, the Alguita had visited the French Frigate Shoals, off Hawaii, home to endangered monk seals and seabird rookeries. Greenpeace reported that a staggering 80 percent of seabird populations observed worldwide have ingested plastics. Research into the stomach contents of dead Fulmars from the Netherlands, between and , found that 96 percent of the birds had plastic fragments in their stomachs with an average of 23 plastic pieces per bird Van Franeker and Meijboom, When plastic ingestion occurs, it blocks the digestive tract, gets lodged in animals windpipes cutting airflow causing suffocation, or fills the stomach, resulting in malnutrition, starvation and potentially death.

In April a dead Minke whale washed up on the Normandy coast in France. Cuviers beaked whales are rarely seen in coastal waters, as they are predominantly a deep-water species. The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust took various skin and blubber samples and removed the stomach for further study by the Scottish Agricultural College.

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On initial removal it was found that the entrance to the stomach was completely blocked with a cylinder of tightly packed shredded black plastic bin liner bags and fishing twine. It is believed that this made it difficult for the animal to forage and feed effectively. The smaller the pieces of plastic get, the more dangerous they are to marine organisms.

Fragmented plastic, specifically nurdles and small size mermaid tears, are found in the stomach of smaller sea creatures as well: Whether the chemicals contained in the plastics are then desorbed to digestive fluids and transferred to tissues in quantities significant enough to harm the animals is subject to ongoing, yet still incomplete, research.

However, as more and more studies on the matter are undergone, unpleasant findings are definitly uncovered. PCBs can lead to reproductive disorders, death, an increased risk of disease, and an alteration of hormone levels Ryan et al. They have been linked to the masculinisation of female polar bears and spontaneous abortions and declines in seal populations.


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In , Ryan et al obtained evidence that PCBs in the tissues of Great Shearwaters were derived from ingested plastic particles from Derraik, The most recent review of all evidence concludes that exposure to DDT before puberty increases the risk of breast cancer. In a September press conference, Doug Woodring from Project Kaisei, said that assessments of the impact of plastic debris on phytoplankton, zooplankton, and mesopelagic midwater fishes are undergoing. The samples collected from the seawater will be subject to more scientific studies for the toxicity of the plastics and how this is really affecting our food chain in ways that are only just becoming known… and not good ways.

Plastics, including polystyrene, are common in the wads of accumulated, undigested matter that young black-footed albatrosses cough up before they fledge. Whether plastics present a unanimously accepted and proven toxic challenge to marine life, and subsequently to humans, is one of the biggest challenges facing scientists right now. Bisphenol A BPA has been shown and proven to interfere with the reproductive systems of animals. PS oligomer and BPA from plastic decomposition are toxic and can be metabolized, while styrene monomer is a suspected carcinogen.

More scientific reports are being published on the effects of Bisphenol A on animal and human health, and the news is not good. In , a professional, international medical organization in the field of endocrinology and metabolism, The Endocrine Society, reported data from new research on animals experimentally treated with BPA. The first major study of health effects on humans associated with bisphenol A exposure was published in September by Iain Lang and colleagues in the Journal of American Association.

The cross-sectional study of almost 1, people assessed exposure to bisphenol A by looking at levels of the chemical in urine. The authors found that higher bisphenol A levels were significantly associated with heart diseases, diabetes, and abnormally high levels of certain liver enzymes. A study on urinary concentrations concluded that prenatal BPA exposure might be associated with externalizing behaviors in two-year old children, especially among female children.

A study on Chinese workers in BPA factories found that workers were four times more likely to report erectile dysfunction, reduced sexual desire, and overall dissatisfaction with their sex life than workers in factories that made products ranging from textiles to machinery, in which there was no heightened BPA exposure. They were also more likely to report reduced sexual function within one year of beginning employment at the factory, and the higher the exposure, the more likely they were to have sexual difficulties. A review summarized BPA adverse effects on thyroid hormone action. All sea creatures, from the largest to the microscopic organisms are, at one point or another, swallowing the seawater soup instilled with toxic chemicals from plastic decomposition.

Blatantly visible is the plastic spill washing up on the shores and beaches. Just a walk on any beach, anywhere in the world, and plastic debris are found in one form or another. All over the world the statistics are ever growing, just staggeringly. The Hawaiian Archipelago, extending from the southernmost island of Hawaii 1, miles northwest to Kure Atoll, is among the longest and most remote island chains in the world.

The 19 islands of the archipelago, including Midway atolls, receive massive quantities of plastic debris, shot out from the Pacific gyres. Some of the plastic litter is decades old. One of the reasons marine debris accumulates in these islands is the movement of debris within the North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone STCZ , as we have explained supra.

Two studies on several islands off Jakarta Bay and islands further to the northwest in the Java Sea, reported that debris pollution on shorelines had substantially increased between and Uneputty and Evans b, Willoughby et al. Both studies noted that results implicated Jakarta as a major source of the debris. On 23 of the islands, it was reported that the total litter at the strandline ranged from not detectable to Plastic bags, polystyrene blocks, and discarded footwear accounted for 80 percent of the items found.

Researchers Barnes and Milner list five studies which have shown increases in accumulation rates of debris on mid to high latitude coasts of the southern hemisphere. Surveys of shorelines around the world, reported by Greenpeace, have recorded the quantity of marine debris either as the number of items per km of shoreline or the number of items per square meter of shoreline. The highest values reported were for Indonesia up to A limited body of literature exists, though, concerning these small to microscopic particles micro debris mirroring the little research addressed to marine litter on the sea floor.

Another effect of the plastic tide that goes beyond visual is its potentiality to change entire ecosystems. This represents a potential threat for the marine environment should an alien species become established. It is postulated that the slow speed at which plastic debris crosses oceans makes it an ideal vehicle for this. The organisms have plenty of time to adapt to different water and climatic conditions.

Derelict fishing gear can be destructive to coral reefs. Corals are in fact animals, even though they may exhibit some of the characteristics of plants and are often mistaken for rocks. In scientific classification, corals fall under the phylum Cnidaria and the class Anthozoa. They are relatives of jellyfish and anemones. Nets and lines become snagged on coral and subsequent wave action causes coral heads to break off at points where the debris was attached.

Once freed, debris can again snag on more coral and the whole process is repeated. This cycle continues until the debris is removed or becomes weighted down with enough broken coral to sink NOAA a. Eventually, derelict fishing gear may become incorporated into the reef structure. Plastic bags can kill coral by covering and suffocating them, or by blocking sunlight needed by the coral to survive.

During , so many plastic bags were regularly seen in the Gulf of Aqaba, off the coast of Jordan, that the Board of Aqaba Special Economic Zone issued a law banning the production, distribution, and trade of plastic bags within the areas under their jurisdiction. Marine litter cause serious economic losses to various sectors and authorities. Among the most seriously affected are coastal communities increased expenditures for beach cleaning, public health and waste disposal , tourism loss of income, bad publicity , shipping costs associated with fouled propellers, damaged engines, litter removal and waste management in harbors , fishing reduced and lost catch, damaged nets and other fishing gear, fouled propellers, contamination , fish farming and coastal agriculture.

This photo was taken 8 March during the last phase of an extreme wave event, and shows the multiples efforts to mitigate erosion in this place. Groins, revetments and sand bags have been used without success in efforts to stop shoreline erosion, and coastal pollution is aggravated. In a Fortune Magazine article about India, it was written that the costs of river pollution to the economy are enormous. Shreekant Gupta, a professor at the Delhi School of Economics who specializes in the environment, estimates that lost productivity from death and disease resulting from river pollution and other environmental damage is equivalent to about 4 percent of gross domestic product.

Our Oceans and coastlines are under unprecedented plastics waste attack. Behind each and every piece of littered plastic debris there is a human face.

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At a critical decision point, someone, somewhere, mishandled it, either thoughtlessly or deliberately. Cigarette filters and cigar tips, fishing line, rope and gear, baby diapers and nappies, six-pack rings, beverage bottles and cans, disposable syringes, tires, the litany of plastic litter is as varied as the products available in the global marketplace, but it all shares a common origin. Our voracious appetite for plastics, coupled with a culture of discarding products that we have chosen for their inherent longevity, is a combination of lethal nature for our environment.

The ultimate symbol of our throwaway lifestyle is the plastic bag: The production of plastic bags creates enough solid waste per year to fill the Empire State Building two and a half times. The petroleum used to make only 14 plastic bags could drive a car 1 mile. Plastic bags are commonly found in waterways, on beaches, and in other unofficial dumping sites across China, for instance. In the United States, however, measures to ban or curtail the use of plastic bags have met with official resistance. With its powerful lobby, the plastics industry argues that jobs will disappear.

The industry employs some two million workers. Americans alone throw out at least billion bags a year, the equivalent of throwing away 12 million gallons of oil, which seems an intolerable waste. Mainly a consensus needs to happen, as a culture of behavioral changes needs to be promoted.

All this land-based debris blows, washes, or is discharged into the water from land areas after people engaged in beach-going activities have discarded it. About 80 percent of all tourist flock to coastal areas. Massive influxes of tourists, often to a relatively small area, have a huge impact, adding to the pollution of the local population, putting local infrastructure and habitats under enormous pressure. For example, 85 percent of the 1.

Shoreline activities account for 58 percent of the marine litter in the Baltic Sea region and almost half in Japan and the Republic of Korea. In Jordan, recreational activities contribute up to 67 percent of the total discharge of marine litter. This is a particularly big problem in the East Asian Seas region — home to 1.

Other emerging hotspots include the oil-boom coasts of the Caspian and the littoral states of Iran and Azerbaijan. In South Asia, the growing ship-breaking industry has become a major source of marine debris. In Gujarat, India — one of the largest and busiest ship-breaking yards in the world — operations are carried out on a kilometer stretch on the beaches of Alang, generating peeled-off paint chips and other types of non-degradable solid waste making its way into the sea.

Sewage waste waters containing plastic type products, rivers, waterways Under normal, dry weather conditions, most wastes are screened out of sewage in countries that do apply strict sewage treatment. During these times, sewage overflows occur. Many Indian rivers are so polluted they exceed permissible levels for safe bathing.

It has been reported that the lack of adequate solid waste management facilities results in hazardous wastes entering the waters of the Western Indian Ocean, South Asian Seas, and southern Black Sea, among others. Derraik stated that ships are estimated to dump 6. An estimated fourth fifths of the oceanic debris is litter blown seaward from landfills and urban runoff washed down storm drains.

Clean up on land where 80 percent of the plastic debris originates is thus the primarily obvious answer. Manual Clean Up The simplest, yet highly effective, action is the manual clean up of the beaches, coasts, rivers, lands and estuaries. National and international manual clean-up operations of shorelines and sea floor are in existence. Contracted by the U. More Than a Litter Problem , which was the first study to identify plastics as a significant marine debris hazard. The data collected and analyzed from the annual ICC Cleanup is used locally, nationally and internationally to influence policy decisions, spawn campaigns for recycling programs, support public education programs, launch adopt-a-beach programs, and even storm water system overhaul and legislative reform.

It engages more than 40 million people from different countries in clean up operations. As part of its Rise Above Plastics campaign, Surfrider foundation is hosting frequent beach clean-ups; it is an example of an encouraging trend towards collective awareness and action to solve the problem at its source. Worldwide private groups and associations are more and more aware that clean-up does need to happen, one day at a time, one person at a time. NOAA has also been contacted regarding cleanup of the debris directly in the garbage patch and other areas of the North Pacific; however, cleanup is likely to be more difficult than it may seem.

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Furthermore, in some areas where marine debris concentrates so does marine life, such as in the STCZ. This makes simple scooping up of the material risky, more harm than good may be caused. Straining ocean waters for plastics would capture the plankton that is the base of the marine food web and responsible for 50 percent of the photosynthesis on Earth. As Captain Charles Moore once said: It is a great starting point for a fundamental cultural change that need to occur, which is part of a major consensus.

It simply starts with individual choices. That is the enormous task, yet the enormous power as well because it resides within each and every one of us. Indeed, thanks to an increased awareness of the plastic pollution spread, local, national, individual, and associative actions have taken place worldwide to stop the plastic hemorrhage at the source. For instance, in , the Australian government launched a campaign called Keep the Sea Plastic Free, in which it attempted to educate the public to dispose of plastic waste properly.

Surfrider foundation is aiming to raise awareness of plastic marine debris and reduce the proliferation of single-use plastic bags and water bottles, as well as the number one littered item worldwide, cigarette butts. The Rise Above Plastics program also seeks to promote a more sustainable lifestyle and educate people about the prevalence of plastic marine debris on our beaches and oceans and how deadly it can be to marine life. The head of the Maritime and Coastal Resources Studies, Tridoyo Kusumastanto, said that both individual and industrial dumpers should learn from scavengers who take solid waste out instead of dumping it into rivers, canals and the sea.

Tridoyo estimated that some 40 tons of waste have been dumped into rivers and other waterways daily in surrounding areas and thus polluting the Java Sea. A campaign against river and sea pollution has been called, and people are urged to change their culture of throwing garbage into waterways and other common places.

Being educated on the situation and aware of the consequences ultimately leads us toward better choices in term of consumption and waste management of plastic at an individual level. It can be as simple as refraining from discarding plastic after first use…plastic inherently chosen for its durability. Mumbai Impressions… when the water retreats… Plastic Pollution.

Captions and Photo source: The current bring-your-own-bag movement at retail stores and supermarkets is a good start in terms of refusing, he notes. Shoichiro Kobayashi, from The Japan Plastics Industry Federation, says that its members have taken measures to reduce spillage of plastics nurdles. The federation has about 1, members. Together with the 2,member All Japan Plastic Products Industrial Foundation, the two groups represent the largest plastic producing companies in Japan.

Kobayashi says his organization encourages members and associated transport companies to avoid spillage and to cover all drainage pipe openings with wire mesh. In fact, such a bill is currently on the table in the state of California. Local legislations, with clear frames and enforcements measures, are increasingly being presented and passed in concert with international programs and legislations, which need ratification by as many countries as possible as the pollution is without frontiers.

In , the London Convention, a United Nations agreement to control ocean dumping, was entered into. Annex V of MARPOL was introduced in with the intention of banning the dumping of most garbage and all plastic materials from ships at sea. A total of countries have ratified the treaty. In and , conventions were held in Oslo and Paris, respectively, which resulted in the passing of the OSPAR Convention, an international treaty controlling marine pollution in the north-east Atlantic Ocean around Europe.