Plastic litter is an ever-increasing global problem and one of the key environmental challenges of today. In 2018, over 345 million tons of plastic were produced worldwide and reach all corners of the earth. Up to 10 million tons of plastic end up annually in our oceans, with plastic being found not only on the water surface, but also in the deepest regions of the sea and the Arctic. Plastic does not degrade naturally in the environment; it simply breaks apart into smaller plastic particles, called microplastics (< 5 mm). These small plastic particles can be ingested by a variety of organisms, from tiny zooplankton to birds and cetaceans, leading to adverse effects such as inflammatory responses, entanglement and ultimately death due to ingestion. In addition, microplastics have already been found in our food, including several seafood species, such as fish, shrimp, and bivalves, but also in other foods, such as honey, beer, salt, sugar and even tap or bottled waters, as well as drinking water from groundwater sources.
The exact amount of microplastics in our waters as well as their long-term impact on the environment is still unknown. Researchers are calling out urgently for more data to properly evaluate the abundance of microplastics globally, and to get a proper overview about the extent of the plastic pollution problem. We take action by combining sailing, science and education in order to collect data, find solutions and strengthen awareness concerning environmental plastic pollution.