We're going about this plastics in the ocean problem all wrong

It is entirely true that there are parts of the ocean where plastics congregate as if at a kaffeeklatsch. We'd probably prefer that they did not. It's also entirely true that we use rather a lot of one use plastics here in Britain, more generally upon land around the world. So, the modern logic goes that we should be using less plastic in order to reduce the amount in the oceans.

That does rather depend upon it being our land based use of plastics being the cause of that in the ocean patches. Something that we should perhaps test. You know, do some of that science stuff? For it is only, as we keep shouting, if we understand the cause of a problem that we can possibly hope to produce a solution to it.

At which point, some science:

Ocean plastic can persist in sea surface waters, eventually accumulating in remote areas of the world’s oceans. Here we characterise and quantify a major ocean plastic accumulation zone formed in subtropical waters between California and Hawaii: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP). Our model, calibrated with data from multi-vessel and aircraft surveys, predicted at least 79 (45–129) thousand tonnes of ocean plastic are floating inside an area of 1.6 million km2; a figure four to sixteen times higher than previously reported. We explain this difference through the use of more robust methods to quantify larger debris. Over three-quarters of the GPGP mass was carried by debris larger than 5 cm and at least 46% was comprised of fishing nets.

There's lots of plastic out there. And some half of it comes solely from fishing nets. Not things which are known to have a great number of land based uses.

Our model estimates that this 1.6 million km2 accumulation zone is currently holding around 42k metric tons of megaplastics (e.g. fishing nets, which represented more than 46% of the GPGP load), ~20k metric tons of macroplastics (e.g. crates, eel trap cones, bottles), ~10 k metric tons of mesoplastics (e.g. bottle caps, oyster spacers), and ~6.4 k metric tons of microplastics (e.g. fragments of rigid plastic objects, ropes and fishing nets).

There's not there much evidence that any land based uses at all are contributing to the problem. And yet the political process keeps telling us that we must not have one use coffee cups, should ban plastic shopping bags, must do away with the idea of bottle water, in order to stop plastics accumulating in the oceans.

Given that it's not us on land causing the problem we on land changing our behaviour and usage isn't going to solve the problem, is it? Amazing stuff science, it can even be used to aid us in sorting things out. But only if we actually use it of course, rather than succumbing to whatever the modern equivalent of sacrificing virgins to bring back the Moon is.