Sustainable Energy

In pictures: The world’s problem with plastic pollution

An indian fisher man walks near of A highly polluted area with plastic bags and other garbage is next to river Ganges, in Allahabad, India.
Ritesh Shukla | NurPhoto | Getty Images

An extraordinary video surfaced at the beginning of March. British diver Rich Horner posted footage from a recent dive in waters off Bali, Indonesia. The video shows him swimming through a thick soup of plastic waste that includes wrappers, bags and other assorted multi-colored packaging.

Horner's video highlights just how serious and pressing the issue of plastic waste is. For example, Europeans produce 25 million tons of plastic waste per year, according to the European Commission. Staggeringly, less than 30 percent of this is collected for recycling.

Here, CNBC's "Sustainable Energy" looks at a selection of images that highlight the impact of plastic pollution on our planet.

The Azores

Reinhard Dirscherl | ullstein bild | Getty Images

A sperm whale swims alongside a plastic bag in waters surrounding the Azores, in the Atlantic Ocean.

Plastic bags can pose a significant threat to whales. In 2017 scientists at the University of Bergen retrieved 30 plastic bags from the stomach of a dead goose-beaked whale that was found on Norway's west coast.


Fachrul Reza | Barcroft Images | Getty Images

A cat sits on a beach in Aceh Province, Indonesia, surrounded by plastic waste. The United Nations Environment Program states that an estimated 8 million tons of plastic waste find their way into the planet's oceans every year.


EyesWideOpen | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Plastic clogs up a waterway in Yangon, Myanmar.

Around the world, efforts are underway to mitigate the impact of plastic waste. The European Commission, for example, wants to make all plastic packaging recyclable by the year 2030.


Wild Horizon | Universal Images Group | Getty Images

A bottlenose dolphin swims in an oil slick accompanied by a black plastic bag in waters off the Caribbean island of Curacao. More than 700 species "encounter marine litter in the environment" according to the University of Plymouth's International Marine Litter Research Unit.

Ivory Coast 

Sia Kambou | AFP | Getty Images

A man gathers plastic at a waste water evacuation canal in the Ebrie Lagoon, Abidjan.


Jefta Images | Barcroft Media | Getty Images

Workers are surrounded by plastic waste and other trash on the Citarum River in West Java, Indonesia.

The Citarum is said to be one of the world's most polluted rivers. In 2014, the Asian Development Bank noted that water quality in the Citarum region had been "decreasing rapidly" for a period of 20 years.


Muhammad Fauzy | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Plastic is strewn across a beach in Bali, Indonesia.

The issue of plastic washing up on beaches is an incredibly serious one, although efforts are underway to tackle the issue.

In the U.K, for example, a levy on single use plastic bags has had a significant impact.

In November 2016, the Marine Conservation Society announced that the number of plastic bags found on U.K. beaches had fallen by almost half in one year. The organization said that the 5 pence (7 cent) charge had been a major factor in the drop.


A man gets ready to transport plastic bottles for recycling in Agartala, India.

Globally, many plastic bottles are made from polyethylene terephthalate, or PET.

In 2014, more than 66 billion PET bottles were recycled in Europe according to a report produced for Petcore Europe, which represents the PET value chain in Europe.