The material takes up to 500 (!) years to rot. Over time, the material is ground into very small particles, which collect in the water and on the bottom of the sea. The smallest particles mostly bind to toxic and carcinogenic substances such as DDT or PCB. The effects on the marine habitat and the entire biosphere are horrible.
Sea creatures of all sizes, from whales to cockles, mistake plastics for natural food and die painfully of eating them. The toxic substances enter the human organism through the food chain.
Example plastic bag: according to the Deutsche Umwelthilfe, the annual consumption is at approx. 1 trillion plastic bags. Germany consumes 5.3 billion plastic bags per year, i.e. 10,000 bags per minute. The current recycling rate is at only 6.6%. The average time of use per bag is approx. 25 minutes. Plastic bags take about 100 to 500 years to fully disintegrate, depending on the plastic used.
Read more (Deutsche Umwelthilfe Figures and Facts)
Severe ecological consequences
According to the Federal environmental office, sea waste causes immense economic costs as well as severe ecological consequences. Cleaning of a beach section of 7 km on the Island of Sylt leads to 2 tons of wastes per day. This means approx. 23,000 waste bags per year requiring disposal, causing the corresponding costs. Applying this to the oceans, the global waste volumes cause significant disposal costs. This is a hopeless situation for countries in financial trouble.
Read more (Federal environmental office)