There are many different terms used today to describe plastic in and near the marine environment. There is no “correct” 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 includes all mismanaged plastic waste at risk of entering the ocean. This material may have already reached the ocean, or be on beaches, in waterways, or even on land within 50 km of the shoreline. Oceanworks uses the five sub-categories of ocean plastic below.
- High Seas: Material far from shore accumulated floating “gyres.”
- Near Shore: Material suspended in the shallow areas of the ocean that are close to shore. This category also includes fishing net recovery and intervention programs.
- Coastal: Material that has washed up onto beaches and coastlines.
- Waterway: Material in streams, rivers and other waterways flowing towards the ocean.
Ocean-bound: Material collected from communities with no formal waste management within 50 km of the shore line.