When I did my PhD in Marine Biology 25 years ago, there was little talk of ocean litter. We were talking about climate change (and it’s depressing how little movement there’s been on that front), we were talking about PCBs, we were talking about oil pollution. But litter? No.
It’s been looming in the background for a couple years now (as anyone who’s swum in the Caribbean will attest) but, since Blue Planet II screened earlier this year, a veritable tsunami of shock has risen. A quick google of plastics in the ocean launches a horror story of turtles caught in nets, seabirds full of condoms and hermit crabs making homes of bottle caps. Whether this has always been happening and we just didn’t know or care; or whether it’s a new phenomenon generated by more and more people treating the ocean like a landfill site remains to be seen. But shocking stuff it is. Thanks to great work by David Attenborough and Ellen MacArthur, the message is getting out there but we can all do things differently every day to make change happen faster.