Plastics have been instrumental in providing access to clean drinking water, medical applications, and improved hygiene and food safety. However, plastics also cause problems. More than 10 million tons of plastic enter the oceans annually. Marine plastic pollution has documented impacts on marine organisms and ecosystem services. The use of chemical additives in plastics also poses a potential threat to human health. While desirable, recycling of plastics is currently constrained by material and chemical complexity, limitations in available technologies, and market demands. This article provides a brief introduction to plastic materials, marine plastic pollution, and its potential effects on marine ecosystems and human health. We also discuss some of the policy and technical issues and suggest priorities for further research.
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