The transformative power of science suggests it should play a fundamental role in developing public policy, ensuring science informs debates about issues such as sustainable energy production, ecosystem protection, and genetic modification of food. However, using scientific knowledge to inform policy debate is not straightforward.
It can take hundreds of years for plastic to degrade alone, but nature may already have answers to our problem. For some organisms, plastic debris offers a food source; for many others, a literal life raft. When 8 to 10 million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year, some of it provides a home to entire biological communities.
There are more than 170 trillion plastic particles – with a combined weight of over 2.33 million tonnes – currently floating in the world’s oceans. Today, plastic marine debris is found in all five major ocean gyres, and in the Southern Ocean. Gyres are areas of large circulating ocean currents that act like a vortex, causing floating waste to be gently drawn into their core.
The WHO estimates that one in six people will experience infertility in their lifetime. Further, we have seen a dramatic decrease of almost 50% in both male sperm count and female conception rates in the past 50 years. This decrease can be largely attributed to our increasing exposure to chemicals in our environment known as Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals.