Even the World’s Deepest Oceans Are Contaminated by Plastic Waste

Animals living in the deepest, darkest parts of the ocean are ingesting plastic fragments, according to a new report published this week in “Royal Society Open Science.”

Based on discovering microplastics in organisms across six areas with a depth of over 6,000 meters, researchers concluded, “It is highly likely there are no marine ecosystems left that are not impacted by plastic pollution.” For reference, some of these areas are deeper below the surface than Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain, is above it.

Care2’s Joel Boyce highlighted this problem last year, pointing out that the discovery of a plastic bag in the Mariana Trench — the deepest depression on earth, located east of the Philippines — was an indicator of the vast plastic waste we are now swimming in.

But this newest report reveals that the situation is even more extreme.

Deep-sea exploration is both expensive and time-consuming. This means that most findings up until now have focused on plastic pollution close to the surface, such as the plastic fragments found in sea birds, fish and turtles.

David Attenborough’s amazing “The Blue Planet” series has shown us what happens when marine life like dolphins and whales ingest plastic in shallow waters, but now we’re learning that plastic pollution goes much deeper.

A team of researchers found that the digestive tracts of 100 percent of the creatures studied in the Mariana Trench contained plastic fibers.

“Half of me was  expecting to find something but that is huge,” said lead author Alan Jamieson, from Newcastle University.

Jamieson and his team usually spend their time searching for new species, but this time they decided to look for plastic — and they found it in all of the deepest ocean trenches.

“Let’s Not Waste Time”

As Jamieson explains:

It’s off Japan, off New Zealand, off Peru, and each trench is phenomenally deep.

The salient point is that they (plastics) are consistently found in animals all around the Pacific at extraordinary depths so let’s not waste time. It’s everywhere. And once the plastic waste reaches this deep, it has nowhere else to go.

If you contaminate a river, it can be flushed clean. If you contaminate a coastline, it can be diluted by the tides. But, in the deepest point of the oceans, it just sits there. It can’t flush and there are no animals going in and out of these trenches.

The scientists was also alarmed and depressed to find that they had discovered some new species that had never been seen in a non-contaminated state. 

Plastic has only been around since 1907, when Belgian chemist Leo Baekeland invented Bakelite – the first completely synthetic plastic, containing no molecules found in nature. Over a century later, plastic is found in everything from toothpaste and clothes to packaging and containers.

Plastic is everywhere, and it’s non-biodegradable. Its journey begins in household garbage before it moves to dump sites, rivers and the ocean. It’s time to break this harmful cycle. 

Take Action!

If you want to protect marine life, please sign this Care2 petition urging your state to confront our plastic problem head-on and begin a phase-out of all single-use plastics. 

Creating a Care2 petition is easy. If you have an issue you care deeply about, why not start your own petition? Here are some guidelines to help you get started and soon the Care2 community will be signing up to support you.


Photo Credit: Getty Images


Martha P
Mia Pabout a month ago

thanks for the info

Alice L
Past Member about a month ago


Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 months ago

This is a problem of people littering. This has nothing to do with the plastics it’s people who are the problem.

Leanne K
Leanne K3 months ago

We simply have to ban it outright or tax it to the hilt

Fred L
Fred L3 months ago

How is plastic in the deepest parts of the ocean a surprise? As long as corporations control our government, and they will, thanks to decisions such as Citizens United, any changes will be cosmetic. We need something to galvanize us to act, something or someone so egregious ... hey, maybe Trump and the Far Right will be our unintentional saviors.

Shae L
Shae Lee3 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

Lindsay K
Lindsay K3 months ago

This is terrible. Petition signed. Big business has to change. I suspect that the big companies are putting pressure on governments across the world to stop them passing legislation that would force them to act. And, let's face it, action costs, and it's the customers who will end up paying at least in the short term. A real scandal now is double packaging - items sold in tubes in boxes, or wrapped in plastic twice etc. I thought I'd contact Unilever with an email - I've done it before, but now they want all my personal details, and I'm just not happy about that either!!

Muriel S
Muriel Servaege3 months ago

We stop using plastic as much as possible, but nonethesss there are still products wrapped in plastic, plastic which is not collected (e.g. that of toothpaste, …), … We haven't used single use plastic bags for years but the catastrophe has already been achieved. This is heartbreaking.

Anne Moran
Anne Moran3 months ago

The world goes round and round,, and so does the garbage...

Alea C
Alea C3 months ago

The world has always looked upon earth's waterways as a dumping ground, but those waterways are getting their revenge by sentencing us to death. The bigger tragedy is that we're taking so many other species with us.