Carrier bag found 10,000m below the surface of the Pacific, in the world’s deepest ocean trench, is amongst 3,000 items that reveal the horror of plastic pollution

  • Scientists used the Deep-sea Debris Database to make the shocking discovery
  • It records details of deep ocean debris located over the past three decades 
  • It was one of more than 3,000 pieces of man made debris they uncovered
  • A third of debris they located was plastic, mostly from single use products
  • More than half of debris in ocean areas deeper than 6,000m was also plastic   
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Divers have uncovered a plastic bag 10,898m (330,000ft) below the surface of the Pacific in the Mariana Trench, the world’s deepest ocean trench. 

The plastic bag was one of 3,000 pieces of man made debris discovered by researchers studying records of deep ocean pollution dating back 30 years.

The find, made more than 1,000km (3,330ft) from the mainland, reveals the true horror of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans, environmental experts warn.

Scientists trawled global data, images and footage to make the discovery. The carrier bag in question was found deeper than 33 Eiffel towers, laid tip to base. 

Information on debris was gathered by numerous international teams working around the world on 5,010 dives, using deep-sea submersibles and remote vehicles.

The plastic bag was singled out as the deepest and most extreme example of ocean debris uncovered by the research team.

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Human activities are affecting the darkest depths of the ocean say scientists studying 30 years of records of deep-sea plastic debris. This starfish was discovered living 467 metres below the surface on the bottom of the ocean, using a blue tarpaulin for shelter

Scientists from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) in Yokosuka used information from the Deep-sea Debris Database to make the discovery.

It was launched for public use by JAMSTEC’s global oceanographic data centre in 2017.

More than a third of debris found was macro-plastic, 89 per cent of which was from single-use products. 

More than half of debris in ocean areas deeper than 6000m (20,000 ft) was plastic, almost all of which was single-use.

The results of this study show that deep-sea ecosystems are also being affected indirectly by human activities, according to the UN’s Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre in Cambridge (UNEWCMC).

‘Deep-sea ecosystems are highly specific to the region they are found in and have a very slow growth rate, making the potential threats from plastic pollution are concerning,’ a spokesman said in a written statement.

‘There is growing concern that deep-sea ecosystems are already being damaged by direct exploitation of both biological and non-biological resources – through deep-sea trawling, mining and infrastructure development, for example.’ 


Experts discovered divers found a plastic bag 10,898m (330,000ft) below the surface of the Pacific Ocean in the Mariana Trench, the world’s deepest ocean trench. This plastic bag was  found 976 metres below sea level and dangerously close to marine organisms

Plastic pollution is emerging as one of the most serious threats to ocean ecosystems. 

World leaders, scientists and affected communities have all called for urgent action, but the impacts of plastic pollution are not well understood.  

Once in the deep-sea, plastic can persist for thousands of years. 

The widespread distribution of single-use plastic, even to the greatest depths of the ocean, reveals a clear link between daily human activities and the remotest of environments, say UNEWCMC experts.

Reducing the production of plastic waste is the only solution to the problem of deep-sea plastic pollution, they warn, recommending a global monitoring network to share the limited data on deep-sea plastic pollution.


The carrier bag that was found in the Mariana Trench and was found deeper than 33 Eiffel towers, laid tip to base, would reach. Other items included plastic, metal, rubber and fishing gear

WHAT DOES THE DEEP-SEA DEBRIS DATABASE REVEAL ABOUT OCEAN PLASTIC POLLUTION?

Plastic pollution is a scourge that is ravaging the surface of our planet. Now, the polluting polymer is sinking down to the bottom of the ocean. 

The deepest part of the ocean is found in the Mariana Trench, located in the western Pacific Ocean, to the east of the Mariana Islands. It stretches down nearly 11,000 metres (36,100 feet) below the surface.

One plastic bag was found 10,898 metres (35,754 feet) below the surface in this region, the deepest known piece of human-made pollution in the world. This single-use piece of plastic was found deeper than 33 Eiffel towers, laid tip to base, would reach. 

Whilst the plastic pollution is rapidly sinking, it is also spreading further into the middle of the oceans. A piece of plastic was found over 1,000 km (620 miles) from the nearest coast – that’s further than the length of France.  

The Global Oceanographic Data Center (Godac) of the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (Jamstec) launched for public use in March 2017. 

In this database, there is the data from 5,010 different dives. From all of these different dives, 3,425 man-made debris items were counted. 

More than 33 per cent of the debris was macro-plastic followed by metal (26 per cent), rubber (1.8 per cent), fishing gear (1.7 per cent), glass (1.4 per cent), cloth/paper/lumber (1.3 per cent), and ‘other’ anthropogenic items (35 per cent).

It was also discovered that of all the waste found, 89 per cent of it was designed for single-use purposes. This is defined as plastic bags, bottles and packages. The deeper the study looked, the greater the amount of plastic they found. 

Of all man-made items found deeper than 6,000 metres (20,000 feet), the ratios increased to 52 per cent for macro-plastic and 92 per cent for single-use plastic.  

The direct damage this caused to the ecosystem and environment is clear to see as deep-sea organisms were observed in the 17 per cent of plastic debris images taken by the study.  


The plastic bag, found more than 1,000km (3,330ft) from the mainland, reveals the true extent of plastic pollution on the world’s oceans, researchers say. This site may resemble a landfill site, but is in fact off the coast of Japan and 581 metres below the surface

Impact assessment surveys should be prioritised for biologically and ecologically important areas with high concentrations of plastic debris, and to use ocean circulation models to identify how plastic is travelling from land to the deep-sea, they add.

More than 33 per cent of the debris uncovered in the study was macro-plastic, followed by metal (26 per cent), rubber (1.8 per cent), fishing gear (1.7 per cent), glass (1.4 per cent), cloth/paper/lumber (1.3 per cent), and ‘other’ anthropogenic items (35 per cent). 

The direct damage this caused to the ecosystem and environment is clear to see as deep-sea organisms were observed in the 17 per cent of plastic debris images taken by the study.

The full findings of the study were published in the journal Marine Policy.

WHAT ARE THE LATEST PREDICTIONS FOR THE FUTURE IMPACT OF OCEAN WASTE?

The amount of plastic in the oceans is expected to triple in just ten years, a report issued by the UK government in March 2018 warned.

This key environmental problem risks being ‘out of sight, out of mind’ with more known about the surface of Mars and the Moon than the deep sea bed, it added.

The toll of plastic pollution in the sea could be 150million tonnes by 2025 – treble the 50million tonnes estimated in 2015. 

Our oceans store carbon dioxide and heat while producing oxygen and food, the Foresight Future of the Sea Report stressed. 

On the growing blight of plastic pollution, the document warned this will leave a physical presence, accumulating on coasts or in particular areas of ocean.

The report also warned plastic litter on coasts can increase the risk of dangerous bacteria in the water, such as E.coli. 

It said efforts to reduce plastic pollution should focus on stopping it entering the sea, developing new biodegradable materials and public awareness campaigns. 

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