Overfishing, oil slicks, acidification — the world’s oceans, which cover 71 percent of the planet’s surface, face plenty of environmental problems. As I note in this Green Column, we’ve added another serious one to the list: the vast amount of trash, 80 percent of it plastic, that ends up in the seas from year to year.
Actually, scientists and environmental campaigners have been aware of the mounting volumes of plastic in the seas since the 1970s. But over the last two or three years, the phenomenon has gained wider attention, stirring concern among policymakers in the United States and Europe.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for one, says that marine debris ‘‘has become one of the most pervasive pollution problems facing the world’s oceans and waterways.’’ And the European Union’s commissioner for maritime affairs and fisheries, Maria Damanaki, recently said that the pollution of the Mediterranean had reached ‘‘alarming proportions.’’