Plankton have been filmed eating plastic, meaning we now eat it too

10 Jul 2015

For the first time, zooplankton have been caught on film eating waste plastic from oceans, which effectively means we’re all eating plastic too, thanks to the food chain.

The species of zooplankton was filmed by a team of researchers and a production company called Verity White who have shown clear evidence that the tiny creatures are not filtering out minute particles of plastic, but rather consuming it, according to

In a paper published in Environmental Science and Technology, the team described how in a testing tank that contained the zooplankton, they inserted particles of plastic into the water to see whether they would ingest it.

To help the researchers differentiate between plastic particles and algae, the plastic was dyed so that it could be seen under their microscopes. The results show that the creatures do indeed consume the plastic and, indeed, store it for as long as a few weeks in their systems in some cases.

This is bad news not just for the plankton themselves, but for the vast majority of the food chain from fish to humans who are now ingesting this plastic.

The news might not come as a surprise to those who are aware of the serious environmental problem that is affecting our oceans caused by plastic waste.

A report last February showed that, each year, we as a species are throwing 8m tonnes of plastic into the ocean and are contributing to problems like the ‘great Pacific garbage patch’ that exists in the centre of the Pacific Ocean.

Aside from being an unnatural food source, the researchers from the Plymouth Marine Laboratory in the UK also discovered that other species of zooplankton were also found to be ingesting the plastic.

In most cases, the plastic that was being eaten outweighed the amount of natural algae that was being consumed which results in the creatures feeding on these plankton receiving less energy in turn.

Plankton under microscope image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic