Planet or Plastics?

Plastic littering in the oceans has a major impact on marine species, biodiversity and ecosystems. This is highlighted in the exhibition Planet or plastics? which is on display at The National Maritime Museum 2 June 2023 – 28 February 2024. The exhibition is a collaboration with National Geographics, based on their multi-year initiative that aims to reduce the amount of single-use plastic that ends up in the oceans.

More plastic than fish in the oceans?

Plastic affects life in the oceans.
Photo: Jordi Chias

Microplastics in the oceans are increasing drastically. Researchers predict that the plastic in the ocean will quadruple by 2050. This due to the increase in plastic consumption, expected to double by 2040. Once the plastic reaches the ocean, it is almost impossible to recycle, and the concentration continues to increase. Today, researchers estimate, for example, that 90 percent of all seabirds and 52 percent of all sea turtles ingest plastic. We can find plastic waste in all oceans, from the Arctic to the Antarctic, from the ocean surface to the ocean floor.

Plastic is everywhere

The exhibition tells the story behind plastic. From when the invention of the material more than a hundred years ago until today’s mass consumption. Today, plastic is so common that it is easy to forget how dependent we humans are on it. This is visualised in the exhibition through visual storytelling with images, infographics and videos. With a strong visual language, the exhibition highlights the importance of finding a balance between using plastic and protecting our environment. Through increased awareness, we can take on the challenge of reducing our dependence on single-use plastics together.

Knowledge about plastics can lead to change

– Museums have a very important role as mediators of knowledge and bringing people together, especially in times like these. I see that the National Maritime Museum has a very important part to play when it comes to spreading knowledge about the situation. We can also highlighting possible measures and solutions. We are very happy and proud to have the opportunity to show this exhibition together with National Geographic, says Mats Djurberg, museum director of The National Maritime Museum.

Concrete tips

Included in the exhibition are tips on measures that visitors can incorporate into their everyday lives. By responsibly reducing, reusing, recycling and renouncing products with single-use plastic, we can all join in and take responsibility for life in the oceans.

Did you know that:

  • Each year, approximately 11 million tons of plastic waste are dumped into the oceans. Marine litter is found in all the world’s oceans, but most of it comes from land and only a smaller part from shipping and fishing.
  • Plastic consumption is estimated to double from today’s around 300 million tonnes to 600 million tonnes in 2040.
  • The global amount of plastic waste that ends up in the oceans is estimated to quadruple by 2050.
  • If we don’t act now on a global level, there could be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050.
  • 2,144 species in the marine environment are affected by plastic emissions in the sea areas covered by the review.
  • The extent of plastic pollution and its impact on marine species and ecosystems varies greatly: from plastic pieces in the stomach, deadly nooses around the neck to chemical plasticizers in the blood. The dangers to marine life are enormous. Plastic debris causes internal and external damage, death, reduced food intake, impaired immune systems or reproductive capacity of organisms.
  • The complex root systems of mangrove trees, which are crucial for marine biodiversity, contain high levels of microplastics that inhibit plant growth. Indonesia’s mangrove forests, threatened by logging and land conversion, are also severely affected by plastic covering the roots.
  • Coral reefs worldwide are severely affected by climate change. When plastic debris gets stuck in them, their chance of survival further decreases. Plastic tarps or fishing gear often remain on the reef for decades, damaging the corals. Microplastics that coral animals ingest reduce resistance.

Facts from WWF’s report Impacts of plastic pollution in the ocean on marine species, biodiversity and ecosystems, which summarizes roughly 2,500 research studies on marine litter.

The National Maritime Museum conveys knowledge about plastic litter in the sea. This way they create an awareness of what is needed for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature. (12.8)

Through the Planet or Plastics? exhibition the National Maritime Museum sheds light on the problem of littering in the oceans. They convey knowledge about how everyone can act to reduce littering. (14.1)