The plastic soup in our oceans

Every minute, the equivalent of one full truck of plastic is dumped in the ocean. That equals 1440 trucks per day and 8 billion kilos every year.

Bigger pieces of plastic, like bottles or plastic bags, are fragmented in de water into smaller pieces called micro plastics. This process of fragmentation is caused by sunlight, disintegration and the waves of the ocean. Animals, like fish, plankton, but also birds see these small micro plastic pieces as food. This is how plastic gets its way into our food chain. We are literally eating the plastic we threw away, but also damaging our own environment.

All this plastic that was dumped into the oceans, also to an increasing extent pollutes the beaches. Even the most beautiful beaches in the world are covered by garbage, dirt and mainly plastic that is brought there by the sea, the waves and the tide.

What is the plastic soup?

In 1997, in the middle of the ocean, captain Charles Moore discovered a large area covered with plastic pieces, large and small. Later he went back to do more research and called this the ‘plastic soup’.

Do you know what the problem is with plastic? It doesn’t consume. It may be fragmentized into multiple pieces, but it will never be digested by an animal or fish or evaporate. A lot of the plastic that ends up in the environment, like bottles, plastic wrappers, plastic bags, but also small plastic pieces; many of them end up in the ocean. Either by garbage being dumped, waste being thrown on the streets or in rivers or waste being taken by the wind.

In the oceans, the water flows. This is caused by enormous streams, tides (caused by the position of the moon related to the sun) and wind power. Sooner or later, this plastic gets caught up in one of these water streams. The plastic pieces are transported by these streams towards some central parts of the oceans. That’s where these plastic parts remain. They are basically submissive to the power of the oceans. This is how plastic soups can emerge.

Toxic food

Because of the degradation and fragmentation of the plastic that flows in the oceans, very small minuscule parts of plastic are being formed out of larger parts. These plastics are seen as food by fish and plankton. Plankton, the poor little creature, has its place somewhere at the bottom of the global food chain. Just as eating plastic is unhealthy for humans, it is also quite toxic for fish and plankton. Many societies, like ours, eat fist quite regularly. Plankton eats micro plastics, fish its plankton and plastic, humans eat fish. This is how these toxics emerge into our food chain.

Not to mention all the industrial waste that is being dumped in lakes and rivers and ends up in our oceans. We are basically making ourselves and Mother Nature sick.

Large areas of plastic

This is only the top of the iceberg. The plastic waste that is polluting our climate, environment and personal health is still somewhat unknown. Especially the effects of plastic waste below sea level is still quite unclear.

However, micro plastic pieces have been found up to 5000 meters under sea level. Plastic bottles have been found up until 3500 meters below sea level. And with every tide new plastic waste is being washed up ashore.

Where did this plastic come from? You can say that most plastic is being thrown on the streets, in the rivers and left in nature. People individually dump waste, but also industries dump their waste into nature. Every river and every wind eventually ends up in the ocean. The ocean takes the floating plastic towards areas far away from civilizations.


These streams are called gyres. A gyre is a natural phenomenon. It’s a rotating current system that is comprised to the earth’s rotation coupled with currents and prevailing winds. It’s basically a giant whirlpool. It takes a long time before a plastic piece fulfils the gyre, up to about 10 years toward the accumulation zone.

It’s an international issue. The plastic comes from every part of the world and is being transported by the currents all over the world.


Its very difficult to get the plastic out of the ocean, due to the enormous size of the currents, the size of the plastic soups and the size of the oceans. It is more effective to get as close to the source as possible. Therefore we should all clean up our beaches, clean our streets, clean our parks and clean our gardens.

The Ocean Cleanup

The Ocean Cleanup is an initiative by a Dutch youngster called Boyan Slat. He invented a new technology to clean up the ocean from its plastic, mainly focused on cleaning up the plastic soups. This technology uses the currents of the ocean. It is a system that catches and concentrates the plastic. The plastic will be pushed by the current into the cleaning system. This system has a U-shape and partly floats on the water. The waste is being collected and shipped to the shore.

It’s a revolutionary idea. Or perhaps it is quite simple. Perhaps what is revolutionary is that it is invented and initiated by a very young Dutch guy. He felt he had to come up with an idea to clean up the huge amount of plastic in the oceans. Somehow he managed to get attention from the public for his solution. He got funding and even the full support from the Dutch government to produce his ideas.

The plastic soup is a huge global climate issue. It is one of the main issues that effect every person in the world. It is caused by our own neglect and ignorance. We all threw away plastic waste into nature. Are we up for cleaning the oceans?

If not, it will have an effect on us sooner or later. It is probably already effecting our health, as the degraded plastic parts are already in our food chain, in the fish we eat. Perhaps it is already causing or contributing to the emerging of cancer as a severe humans disease.

The problem is not resolving itself. Nature cannot degrade plastic. On the contrary, the plastic soup is only getting larger and time will only make the problem worse, because of small parts of plastic being spread to the depth of the oceans.

We need to take action. As was mentioned: it starts at the point where plastic is being dumped into nature. Clean up your own environment. Does anyone have any ideas? Please share below!

The effect of the Blue Planet documentary: A plastic free Britain?

The island of England, Wales and Scotland used to be a big user of plastic. However, after the popular documentary Blue Planet, a change is happening. The British are caught in the fight against plastic. ‘Blue Planet’ has made the British to notice their role in the plastic soup.

Plastic free shopping

A tangible result of this new movement in England, is a garbage-free supermarket in the most environmental-friendly city in England: Totnes. I hear you think: garbage-free supermarket? Yes. It’s a new thing. All products in supermarkets are usually packed in plastic. Fruits or vegetables need to be put in a plastic bag to be weighted before checkout. All the groceries are packed in plastic bags for you to bring them to your house. It’s plastic, plastic, plastic.

The garbage-free supermarket is the other side of the spectrum. Peanuts are grinded in front of your eyes into peanut butter. Customers bring their own pots, bottles and containers. It is not only environmental friendly to skip the unnecessary plastic packages, but also a fun way to shop. One example is the garbage-free supermarket in Vancouver.

Everything can be bought and be put in your own packages. Detergents, bread spread, almond milk, ginger chocolate, etc. Paper bags are available for customers that don’t happen to have brought their own. At the checkout a customer can get a free hug from the cashier.

After the documentary Blue Planet, the number of British people that put more effort in a plastic free lifestyle, has increased. Blue Planet has caused a flow of realisation over the island. In this film, the known environmentalist David Attenborough showed the world how giant tortoise, albatrosses and whales are the victims of a stunning 8 million tons of plastic that end up in the oceans every year.

8 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans every year!

Sewer fat

One doesn’t have to watch Blue Planet to be confronted with the plastic waste that we as humans produce and leave as waste. The roadsides, streets and beaches are covered in a vast layer of plastic waste. Bottles, wrappers, plastic bags, etc. Everything is dumped and ends up in our precious nature. At the same time, the London sewage is regularly clogged by thousands of wet towels that urbanites flush through the toilet. These, and other wastes that are flushed through the London toilets, end up being swallowed in a huge sewer fat.

This big lump of fat is being called ‘fatberg’ or ‘sewage monster’. It has the size of the Tower Bridge and the weight of 11 London busses.

As this fat monster is hiding in the London sewage system, the Museum of London has made it a bit more tangible by displaying a small part in their museum as a limp of the below-ground sewage monster.

It’s a waste

Blue Planet made the British realise what the effect of their plastic behaviour is. Groups of people started to clean the beaches. A new phenomenon from Scandinavia, called ‘plogging’ set foot on British ground, in which joggers pig up garbage from the streets. This is a way to do some extra exercise and clean up your own living environment.

Sweden is way ahead of many countries in environmental-friendly solutions in daily life. In Sweden, only 1 per cent of waste ends up on a landfill, against 23 per cent on the British island. The British prefer to transport their waste to China, but China is increasingly not willing to accept British waste anymore.

Taking action

The government was pushed towards making changes. They were going to investigate whether returnable plastic bottles could be reintroduced. The minister of environmental issues Michael Gove was seen with a sustainable coffee mug in his hand. And some hotels, restaurants and even Buckingham Palace banned plastic straws. Music festivals like Glastonbury, which attracts thousands of idealistic young people every year and leave a ton of waste, are being forced to take action on the waste they produce.

Penzance in Cornwall has called itself the first plastic free city of England. The Anglican Church has called its congregation to better take care of Gods creation, our precious earth. The May government wants the island of Britain to be freed of the plague of plastic by 2042.

The rest of the world might be laughing of the lack of intensiveness of these measurements, but for the British they were a small step towards change.

Small-scale change

When Richard Eckesbey and his wife Nicola realised how much plastic waste they threw out every week, they decided to change their life completely. They quite their jobs and decided to open a garbage free store. They were inspired by the Berlin ‘Unperfekthaus’. They lived in Manchester, which was not the right place for these ideas, as they thought. Instead they decided to open their new garbage free supermarket in the most environmental city in England: Totnes.

Customers are supposed to bring their own containers, pots, bags and bottles. They can fill these with their groceries. Oatmeal, detergent, salt, oil; everything is available in bulk. Even toothbrushes are made of sustainable wood. Tampons are reusable.

We cannot close our eyes anymore for the garbage we cause.

It is a remarkable project. They have no commercial goal and prices are being kept as low as possible. There are no plans to grow the business. Moreover, the owners hope to be an inspiration for others to start a similar project and decrease the (plastic) waste by simple measurements.

Plastic free shopping

A crucial role is being kept for the big supermarket chains. Many people simply don’t have the money nor the time to go shopping in a ‘zero waste supermarket’. A ban of plastic bags, plastic packages and reintroducing the reusable plastic bottle or glass milk bottle are simple solutions to decrease the use of (useless) plastic.

Currently it is almost impossible to shop plastic free. Normal products are packaged in a shocking 2 or 3 layers of plastic and people are obligated to put the fruits and vegetables in plastic bags to be weighted.

It is, furthermore, a system that we live in that makes us lazy. Fifty or sixty years ago, way less plastic was used on a daily basis. Milk was distributed in glass reusable bottles and plastic bags or packages were not used as widespread as nowadays. We should go back to these times. It’s possible and quite simple. It is a change in the mind set and habits of people, of consumers. Will they be willing?

Do you have suggestions on simple measurements to reduce the use of plastic in our daily life? Please share your ideas and be an inspiration.