Plastic waste in our oceans and the impact on the environment.

Blog by: Michelle Hitchcock

Michelle Hitchcock is the Senior Implementation Consultant for Havenstar and has over 30 years’ experience within the Marina industry and is a fully certified marine professional.

I live in a remote and beautiful part of South-West Wales. We have 186 miles of coastal national park, marine conservations zones and many SSI sites. It is stunning, with dramatic cliffs filled with seabird colonies, sandy beaches washed by the Atlantic Ocean. Sadly, like so many other places, the beaches are festooned with plastic waste. Community groups and local villagers regularly arrange beach cleans to pick up larger, easily visible items but are unable to deal with micro-plastics that are invisible to the naked eye.

Unfortunately, it is now a daily occurrence where we see plastic waste along the beach but what about the plastic we don’t? The microscopic fragments mixed within the sand is difficult to see and almost impossible to remove from the beach. All this accumulated plastic causes environmental damage with fatal consequences.

So, why does this matter to me?

An estimated 2.41 million tonnes of plastic escapes into the oceans from coastal nations every year, killing millions of animals with over 100,000 marine animals including Sea turtles, dolphins, seals, and whales. Nearly 700 species, including endangered ones, are known to have been affected by plastic. Nearly every species of seabird eats plastics and so does the fish and shellfish that find its way to our dinner tables. Even plankton unknowingly eats micro-plastics and ultimately, so do humans.

Plastics are designed to be durable and contain a lot of harmful lipid soluble chemicals already identified as a concern to us when eaten. There have been several studies where plastics are found in the GI tract of fish, but bivalve shellfish are more likely to have higher levels. In turn, as we consume more, our exposure to harmful and toxic chemicals is more likely.

This whole cycle of increasing plastic waste on our oceans means we are damaging our seas, our wildlife and our own environment to levels never seen before and everyone must act.

What can Marina operators and individuals do?

Marina operators are very environmentally aware and are continually introducing new green initiatives into their marinas and boatyards. From solar power to wash-down systems these all help protect the seas. Our partners The Green Blue, a joint environmental programme between the RYA and British Marine, has an array of guidance and resources tailored to support boating clubs, users, centres and businesses in becoming more sustainable and raising awareness through accessing relevant material, green boating guides and their Green Blue Business Directory.

We too can help by disposing of our rubbish in the recycling centres provided by marinas and ensuring it does not go into the ocean when we are out enjoying our boats. Boat users can locate their nearest recycling facilities by using The Green Blue’s UK Marina Environmental Facilities Directory.

Some Marina operators have introduced waste management devices that constantly cleans the water in the marina. One of them is called a Seabin, and the idea was conceived and designed in Australia. They now have over 719 of these installations in over 50 countries so if you are thinking of making some environmental improvements in your business then look online at their Seabin project.

This is a worldwide problem and will not be solved by any one country alone, but we all have a part to play, even if it is just small things such as re-cycling every piece of plastic you buy, reducing the amount of plastic you use, joining local environmental groups, lobbying your supermarket to reduce their plastic packaging, or regularly joining a beach clean – Whatever you do spread the message and start today!

Check out what you can do to reduce your plastic waste by clicking on the links in the logos below.


The Green BlueBritish MarineWorld Wide Fund For Nature