Scientists are calling for urgent action against all forms of ocean pollution including clothing fibres, not just single-use plastics such as drinking straws.
Ocean pollution is reaching critical proportions with approximately eight million metric tons of plastic finding its way into the ocean each year.
University of New South Wales ecologist Dr Mark Browne said there was an urgent need to focus on the most abundant type of pollutant, which is clothing fibres.
In the United Kingdom, Professor Richard Thompson and PhD Student Imogen Napper, from Plymouth University compiled a report into synthetic fabric pollution,The Release of Synthetic Microplastic Plastic Fibres from Domestic Washing Machines.
In the report, it was found that polyester and acrylic clothes shed polluting plastic fibres into the ocean each time they were washed.
Napper and Thompson’s results “show that laundering six kilograms of synthetic materials could release from 137,951 to 728,789 fibres per wash.”
In addition to these micro plastics from clothing fibres, pollution from the fishing industry has a wide range of detrimental impacts on the ocean.
"It can cause the destruction of habitats and has large scale ecological impacts on animals and plants, which is a little more serious than a plastic bottle lid lacerating an organism,” Dr Browne said.
“Marine debris can cause a really wide range of impacts on the environment, ranging from physical, chemical and biological. They can all pose a big problem,” he said.
The calls come as an art installation made up of 120 kilograms of plastic ocean debris goes on show at Customs House in Sydney.
The installation, named Wasteland is a collection of 2,225 orange plastic spheres, symbolising the impact of human consumption on the environment.
It was produced by Sydney-based creative studio, Mundane Matters, and aims to bring awareness to plastic pollution and waste.
Creative director of Mundane Matters, Danling Xiao said she was inspired to create an installation by recycling ocean plastic.
“Plastic waste in the ocean is one of the hardest things to recycle, so I wanted to create this piece with it to show that if we can recycle waste from the ocean, we can recycle almost anything,” Ms Xiao said.
“The 2,225 orange spheres linked together symbolise the collective effort that needs to happen in order for us to reduce our waste and recycle more materials,” she said.