There are many different terms used today to describe plastic in and near the marine environment. There is not a “right” answer. The problem is enormous in scale, 100s of millions of tonnes wasted annually, and 10s of millions of tons flowing into the ocean. Ocean plastic can include all mismanaged plastic waste at risk of entering the ocean. This material may have already reached the ocean, or be on beaches and coastlines, or in waterways, or even on land within 50 km of the shoreline. Oceanworks has split ocean plastic in the five sub categories below.
- Ocean-bound: Material collected from communities with no formal waste management within 50 km of the shore line.
- Waterway: Material found in streams, rivers and other waterways flowing towards the ocean.
- Coastal: Material that has washed up onto beaches and coastlines. Commonly fragmented and showing signs of degradation.
- Near Shore: Material suspended in the shallow or adjacent areas of the ocean that are close but not accumulating on the shore line.
- High Seas: Material far from shore, including accumulated floating “gyres.” The collected materials are almost exclusively HDPE, as it floats in ocean water and represents only 6% of the plastics that enter the stream of ocean plastic.
Oceanworks also offers a secondary category of plastic called Averted Plastic.
- Averted: Material collected from communities with mismanaged waste that are greater than 50km from the shore line. This is plastic that, if not responsibility recovered on land, would likely remain in the environment, causing pollution.