The majority of the litter found on shorelines and sea surfaces, and affecting marine life, is plastic.
It has been estimated that up to 12 million tonnes of plastic litter could be entering the ocean every year.
The University of Plymouth’s International Marine Litter Research Unit stands at the forefront of this research, as the first to reveal the widespread occurrence of microscopic particles of plastic debris in the marine environment – pieces which they described as "microplastics" back in 2004.
They have advised governments and international organisations worldwide, continuing to research not only the extent of the problem, but also the scientific and social solutions. Professor Richard Thompson, who leads the research, receiving was made an OBE for services to marine science in the New Year Honours List and in December 2018 was part of a team which received two accolades in the Natural Environment Research Council Impact Awards.