Small pieces of plastic are capable of absorbing other forms of pollution in seawater.
Plastics are among the most important substances used in modern human life. They are cheap, durable, lightweight and can be moulded into virtually any shape or size. But what made plastics so revolutionary is exactly what is now devastating the health of the oceans.
Plastics are made of several different compounds, almost none of which biodegrade. So when plastic enters a body of water, it will never go away. Sunlight and waves will only break plastic down into smaller and smaller pieces. These small, colourful pieces are attractive to animals who mistake it for food. To a seabird, a lighter looks like a fish, a small piece of plastic could be a fish egg, and a plastic bag could be a jellyfish -- a sea turtle's favourite snack.
These small pieces are also capable of absorbing other forms of pollution in seawater. Mercury, PCBs, DDT and oily pollutants attach to plastic, so when animals consume plastic, the pollutants attached to them enter their bodies and move up the food chain, and ultimately to humans who eat seafood.
Yes, we are eating our own trash.