How we're eating the plastic we put in the ocean

Broken-down plastics in the ocean are finding their way into our diets – while also harming the marine systems that are crucial for our survival. Nearly 13 million tonnes of plastic waste ended up in the world's marine environment every year and the volume of microplastics appeared to be on the rise.

Environmentalists were recently alarmed to find the problem had reached the pristine waters of Antarctica.

"We are living in an age of plastic," the University of Auckland's Dr Julie Hope said.

"We increasingly see in the news that we are really struggling to deal with the plastic waste we produce globally."

While research around microplastics had typically focused on fish, shellfish and larger animals in the ocean, less was known about how they affected a group of even tinier organisms.

These were the microalgae that live on the surface of coastal sediments, and which had a disproportionately huge influence.

They were responsible for producing sticky sugars that bound seabed sediment together – effectively influencing how it moved about our coasts.

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