Marine Litter is a bit of a Cinderella subject. It's mostly out of sight, out of mind. But the thing about most of the stuff we throw away is that its made to last.
Plastic bottles break down so slowly they could float about until our great-great-great-great grandchildren are playing on the beaches we take for granted today.
And that's the problem. We are producing litter far faster than it could ever be absorbed by nature. Imagine trying to work while somebody throws empty bottles in the window. You don't have anywhere to put them, so they keep building up until you can't work anymore, or even open the door to get out of the room. This is what it may soon be like in the sea around us, with the wildlife we take for granted for food and tourism crowded out under a blanket of plastic.
We don't even know for definite how much there is out there. We will need to keep collecting the information for years before we can say anything with certainty.
One study showed that 95% of fulmars in the North Sea had plastic in their stomachs. Seals bound in fishing line, which cuts deep into their flesh, are a distressingly common news item. We need to change our behaviour. It's in our own best interest.
Chris Allen is local environmental quality co-ordinator for Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful