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Impact of Marine Plastic Debris on Environment


Generally, there is an overall increase in the use of plastic commodities across the globe. The research paper will analyze the reviews of marine plastic problems in South Africa. The improper disposal of the debris contributes to the rising level of ocean contamination. Plastic waste affects the overall marine and human life. Furthermore, it causes a decline in essential services like tourism and cultural practices in the country. Having effective government interventions, the problems can be tamed to levels that are safe for both marine life and the overall economy of the nation.

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Currently, there has been a rise in the production and consumption of plastic materials worldwide due to the development of synthetic polymers. People use the materials daily because they are cheaply available therefore increasing their accumulation in the environment. An estimated seven million metric turns of plastic wastes are released into the oceans every year. Most of the solid waste management industries are not properly function hence promoting improper disposal. The majority of the marine debris comes from land where wind, rivers or wastes products are channelled into the ocean. When the plastic materials enter the ocean, they disintegrate and form tiny particles that confuse sea creatures as food. Upon ingesting the wastes, most animals and plants lose their lives from the chemicals used in making the effluents. The accumulation of the trash in the waters also occupies breeding grounds of fish, therefore, lowering their number. Some large plastics like paper bags and ropes can also strangle the creatures to the point of losing their lives. The research study will focus on the marine plastic problem in South Africa.

The study site

The study site for the marine plastic problem in South Africa. The country has many rivers taking their waters from the land to the ocean. The nation has large water bodies where it is bordered by Indian and Atlantic oceans. It also has several industries that operate in various cities and towns. The companies usually channel their solid waste products to the nearby rivers that carry them to the oceans. Furthermore, the people have freedom of using and dumping them anywhere. The climatic condition of the country varies based on the location where areas around the cape region experience winter and the other regions summer.

Literature review

According to Verster and Bouwman research (2020), the country has poor waste management facilities that cannot properly manage the solid waste materials from various industries in the country. Several debris is then released into the environment resulting in serious environmental problems. Running waters like rivers and wind usually carry the micro and macro plastic materials to the oceans. Based on statistics, the nation is one of the countries with high marine contamination of about 15000 to 35000 tonnes of plastic deposited into the ocean annually. The wastes contain different chemical compositions and also have varied rates of degradability. Based on the research study of Van Rensburg (2020), the marine plastic problem majorly occurs due to single-use of the products. Most of the paper bags and other related plastics are used without recycling, increasing their accumulation in the environment. The people who go for recreational activities along the beaches usually carry with them food products like beverages in containers like plastic bottles. Upon consuming the products, they dump the wastes along the coastal beaches, increasing the pile-up. The debris is always light thus can be carried by ocean currents from place to place. Following the research study of both Naidoo and Rajkaran (2020), different animals in the ocean, like reptiles, mammals, and birds, interacts with the waste products. Large plastics like fishing nets usually entangles big animals leading to their injuries and uncertain deaths. Furthermore, sea birds, fishes and even reptiles mistakenly feed on the product, which puts their life in danger. The chemicals from the waste materials also make the ocean waters have limited air supply, causing deaths. Similarly, the substances also contaminate the bodies of such creatures making them less suitable for human consumption. The study shows that most of the seafood people consumes are contaminated by microplastics. According to Barboza et al. (2018), the research showed that there is a high concentration of debris in human food products. by consuming the fish products, human ingests a lot of the plastic waste ranging from 11,000 and above every year. The study also suggests that consuming water may also induce chemicals in the body. Therefore, it is not safe for human beings to eat the products since they accumulate high content of harmful substances in the body. Based on the research study of Arabi and Nahman (2020), the country’s cultural services like heritage, recreation and aesthetics are affected by the presence of marine plastic debris. Most of the visitors who come into the nation for entertainment along the sandy beaches of the cost usually limits their stay following the contamination of the places. Furthermore, sharp debris can cut individuals cause injuries. Humans also tend to lose emotional connection with the environment due to the reduction of indigenous species of animals like turtles that die due to ocean pollution. Similarly, the beauty of the coastal regions diminishes because of plastic concentrations.


Based on the reviewed studies, South Africa is facing a surge in the number of the marine plastic problem. The majority of the people opt to use polymers following their low prices in the market. The literature review indicates that there are problems associated with the plastic debris in the ocean. A big part of the marine life is covered by the materials hence putting the nation at risk. Individuals prefer purchasing items packed with plastic bags, which increases the number of disposed plastics in the country. Poor waste management by companies makes it challenging to maintain the debris irrespective of recycling of the products. Furthermore, the studies proved that due to the chemicals present in the debris, when consumed by the marine lives, they get affected and die. Similarly, some of the huge wastes like fishing nets could easily strap the organisms resulting in their death. Human life is at stake, especially when one consumes the fish with high content of microplastic. In addition, the number of tourists decreases due to the concentration of wastes along the beaches. Due to the availability of plastic products in the ocean, fishing activities are affected. Cultural practices and other forms of entertainment along the shores are also threatened by pollution.


To minimize the problems associated with plastic pollution in the marine environment, individuals should ensure they reduce the consumption of single-use plastic products. Moreover, the government should ensure the beaches and rivers are always cleaned to prevent accumulation of the waste products. Furthermore, the state can impose tight policies that control or ban entirely the use of materials made of plastics and microbeads (Carney & Eggert, 2019). The country should promote and support organizations that advocate for plastic pollutions to enhance their effort in curbing the issue. All manufacturing companies should adopt proper waste disposal.


The prevalence of marine pollution by plastics makes the ecosystem dangerous for ocean creatures and human beings. Both people and the government should be responsible for ensuring safety and managing the marine environment. It should be a must for manufacturing firms to practice effective practices that lowers the effect of pollution by solid waste products. Individuals should ensure they use proper dumping approaches to minimize the exposure of the environment to non-biodegradable wastes. To get more income from the tourism sector, the government should provide a safe environment by reducing possible pollutions that can hinder visitors from coming to the country.

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Arabi, S., & Nahman, A. (2020). Impacts of marine plastic on ecosystem services and economy: State of South African research. South African Journal of Science, 116(5-6), 1-7.

Barboza, L. G. A., Vethaak, A. D., Lavorante, B. R., Lundebye, A. K., & Guilhermino, L. (2018). Marine microplastic debris: An emerging issue for food security, food safety and human health. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 133, 336-348.

Carney Almroth, B., & Eggert, H. (2019). Marine plastic pollution: Sources, impacts, and policy issues. Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, 13(2), 317-326.

Naidoo, T., & Rajkaran, A. (2020). Impacts of plastic debris on biota and implications for human health: A South African perspective. South African Journal of Science, 116(5-6), 1-8.

Van der Merwe, C. (2017). A synthesis of the coastal geophysical characteristics of sandy beaches along the South African coastline (Doctoral dissertation, Stellenbosch–Stellenbosch University).

Van Rensburg, M. L., S’phumelele, L. N., & Dube, T. (2020). The ‘plastic waste era’; social perceptions towards single-use plastic consumption and impacts on the marine environment in Durban, South Africa. Applied Geography, 114, 102132.

Verster, C., & Bouwman, H. (2020). Land-based sources and pathways of marine plastics in a South African context. South African Journal of Science, 116(5-6), 1-9.

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