© Alexandra TER HALLE / IMRCP / CNRS Images
1 mm microplastic observed by scanning electron microscopy. The image is colourised. This plastic was collected in May 2014 during the 7th Continent expedition to the North Atlantic ocean gyre, where a vast mass of floating plastic waste has accumulated. The size is typical of the plastic debris collected at sea. Plastic waste breaks up into very small pieces. Such plastic debris is extensively colonised. Plastic will float in the sea for many, many years and will travel several thousand kilometres. The debris forms floating islands or small rafts which can also transport potentially invasive species.