About ocean plastic

Facts and stats about litter in our seas and on our beaches

Tourism can provide the means and motivation to keep beaches and seas clean and healthy, plus it can support coastal communities around the world.

Here are some facts and stats to show the importance of keeping our seas and beaches clean:

• Turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and eat them. The bags block their stomachs, often leading to death from starvation. A high proportion (about 50 to 80%) of sea turtles found dead are known to have ingested marine debris.

• Seabirds mistake floating plastic litter for food. More than 90% of fulmars found dead around the North Sea have plastic in their stomachs.

• It is estimated that on average there are more than 13,000 pieces of plastic litter floating on every square kilometre of ocean. It can be found in all the world's oceans, including those in polar regions.

• Litter disposal and accumulation in the marine environment is one of the fastest growing threats to the health of the world's oceans, with an estimated 6.4m tonnes of litter entering the oceans each year.

• Plastic never biodegrades. It breaks down into small pieces but does not disappear.

• Microplastic particles are now found inside filter feeding animals and among sand grains on our beaches.

• Some areas of ocean contain six times more microscopic plastic particles than plankton.

• The ocean supplies much of the air that we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink.

• Cigarette butts are the most common litter found on a beach. Butts are made from a type of plastic (not natural fibres) so can take years to degrade and, when they do so, they release harmful toxins into the environment.

• At least 267 different species are known to have suffered from entanglement in or ingestion of marine debris including seabirds, turtles, seals, sea lions, whales and fish.

Read our top tips to see what you can do to help!

Did you know....?
  • Plastic NEVER biodegrades.
  • Turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and eat them.
  • Some areas of ocean contain six times more microscopic plastic particles than plankton

Read the full list of facts to find out why it's so important to keep beaches clean.