Facts and Figures: Ocean Plastic 101


Plastic pollution is a major problem for our world’s oceans.  For World Ocean Day, we are staying up to speed on all things ocean pollution!  Read through this list of facts about ocean plastic to learn more about this significant issue and what it means for the environment and for aquatic organisms.

Photo: Bo Eide

Facts and Figures

Fact 1:  It is estimated that about 19-23 million metric tons of plastic waste created worldwide in 2016 entered aquatic systems – this is 11% of all the plastic waste that was generated. If humans do not make necessary changes, approximately 53 million metric tons of plastic will enter aquatic systems each year by 2030.

Fact 2:  The most common products that make up ocean pollution include:  cigarette butts, plastic bags, fishing gear, and food and beverage containers.

Fact 3:  There are more microplastics in the ocean than there are stars in the Milky Way.  Remember, plastics do not decompose, instead they break down further and further into tiny plastic particles – AKA microplastics.  Microplastics cause all sorts of problems for aquatic wildlife:

  • They are often ingested by various animals and aquatic organisms which causes many issues for their digestive system.  Plastic is made out of chemicals, which is toxic to animals.  Organisms with full bellies of plastic often starve as they believe they are no longer hungry, when in reality they have received no real nutrients needed to survive, only plastic.
  • They act as carriers for harmful bacteria that can make animals sick.
  • They are made out of dangerous chemicals that leak toxins into the water.

Fact 4:  Rivers are the primary channels that bring plastic waste to the oceans.

Fact 5:  In 2019, 1,080,358 people participated in litter pickups, resulting in 10,584 tonnes of plastic waste removed – this equates to 9.8kg per person.  How inspiring!  This proves that every little bit truly does count, Earth Rangers!  Although the plastic problem seems very daunting at times, don’t lose hope, we can all still play a part by joining initiatives like Plastic Free July®, a global movement that helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution. You can also do your part by accepting the More Plastic More Problems Mission today!


  1. My brain is spinning! We recycle and reuse plastic. I drink from plastic reusable straws. I encourage people to do the same things. We pick up plastic that we see on the ground. If we can we try to recycle it or we throw it in the trashcan if we have to. We do not want plastic to end up in the water, it kills the creatures in the water. It’s so sad!