May 20th is European Maritime Day. The Statista graphic shows the extent to which the North and Baltic Seas are polluted by plastic from German rivers.

Every year, thousands of kilos of plastic are washed into the North Sea and Baltic Sea via German rivers. This is shown by the Statista graphic based on a current estimate by the organization The Ocean Cleanup. Most of the plastic ends up in the North Sea via the Elbe. How much plastic waste ends up in the sea through a river depends on a number of factors. In addition to the length and diameter of the river, these include above all the population concentration on the respective rivers, the economic performance of the surrounding regions and the quality of waste management on site. Most of the plastic waste that enters the world’s oceans via rivers, however, is emitted by rivers in Asian countries.

Most plastic waste comes from the countryside

Most of the plastic waste in the world’s oceans comes from land. The waste gets into the rivers with sewage and is washed further into the sea. Sometimes it is also blown into the water from garbage dumps on the coast. In addition, in many places bathers carelessly leave their rubbish on the beach. Some of the waste consists of microplastics that get into the sewers, among other things, through cosmetic products. However, microplastics are also formed as a result of the slow decomposition of larger pieces of plastic that are already floating in the oceans.

The Ocean Cleanup is a project that aims to clean up the plastic that has ended up in the ocean. Many animals are dying from plastic waste, starving with stomachs full of plastic or getting entangled in floating garbage. Microplastics can also release toxic substances, accumulate in the food chain and thus return to land and cause further damage there. The Ocean Cleanup project is not undisputed. According to media reports, collateral damage is feared, since the collection systems together with the waste could also capture organisms (neuston) living directly under the water surface and thus damage the ecosystem.