The pollution of the marine environment by plastic debris: a review

Mar Pollut Bull. 2002 Sep;44(9):842-52. doi: 10.1016/s0025-326x(02)00220-5.


The deleterious effects of plastic debris on the marine environment were reviewed by bringing together most of the literature published so far on the topic. A large number of marine species is known to be harmed and/or killed by plastic debris, which could jeopardize their survival, especially since many are already endangered by other forms of anthropogenic activities. Marine animals are mostly affected through entanglement in and ingestion of plastic litter. Other less known threats include the use of plastic debris by "invader" species and the absorption of polychlorinated biphenyls from ingested plastics. Less conspicuous forms, such as plastic pellets and "scrubbers" are also hazardous. To address the problem of plastic debris in the oceans is a difficult task, and a variety of approaches are urgently required. Some of the ways to mitigate the problem are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Marine Biology
  • Oceans and Seas
  • Plastics / adverse effects*
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / adverse effects*
  • Refuse Disposal / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / adverse effects*
  • Water Pollution / prevention & control*


  • Plastics
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls