Pollution comes in many guises, and a number of them are detrimental to the health of ecosystems and individual species, including mankind. The industrial waste that enters our waterways can be toxic, particles emitted from vehicles poison the air, the use of pesticides contaminates our soil, and the fallout from our love affair with disposable plastic permeates every corner of the globe, including the remotest reaches of our oceans such as the polar seas and deep ocean trenches.
Marine plastics are gaining increasing attention, not least because they are such an obvious visual blight on our beaches and the sheer volume of plastic polluting our oceans has become impossible to ignore. But the aesthetic offensiveness of these indestructible eyesores should be the least of our concerns. Far more worrying is their detrimental, if largely invisible, long-term impact on our environment, our biodiversity and, potentially, human health.
FFI has been addressing the problem of marine plastic pollution as part of our broader remit for well over a decade, but in 2009 we began developing a programme that focused specifically on one of the most insidious threats to our oceans: microplastic pollution. As their name implies, microplastics are tiny (up to 5mm in size, with no lower limit), but their collective and cumulative impact may be disproportionately enormous.