The startling National Geographic cover photo that captures the plastic crisis

A haunting cover image on the June issue of National Geographic is circulating online, suggesting the plastic pollution we see is just the tip of the iceberg.

Such is the extent of Earth’s mind-boggling plastic problem that scientists recently found a plastic bag in the Mariana Trench — the deepest point in the ocean, sitting nearly 11 kilometres below the surface.

The Nat Geo cover image was shared by the magazine’s senior photo editor Vaughn Wallace on Twitter this morning who called it “one for the ages”. At the time of writing, the tweet has been shared more than 6000 times and been liked 13,000 times.

If it's not bottles, it's plastics bags and other plastic-based packaging that can find its way into our waterways and harm wildlife. Photo / File
If it’s not bottles, it’s plastics bags and other plastic-based packaging that can find its way into our waterways and harm wildlife. Photo / File

The cover was praised by social media users, applauding the publication for focusing on one of the biggest environmental issues of our time.

“Brilliant, depressing image on the cover of NatGeo,” wrote one Twitter user.

The latest edition of the magazine is dedicated to Earth’s plastic consumption and is filled with striking images and infographs that show the immense scale of plastic pollution plaguing our planet.

As a small part of addressing the problem, the magazine has committed to delivering its issues in paper wrappers rather than plastic wrappers moving forward.

One million plastic bottles are bought every minute around the globe and most of them end up in landfill where they take a significant time to break down, or in the ocean where they kill marine life.

If it’s not bottles, it’s plastics bags and other plastic-based packaging that can find its way into our waterways and harm wildlife.

Some experts have warned that the plastic crisis is as bad as climate change.

A report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation launched last year at the World Economic Forum found the equivalent of a garbage truck worth of plastic bottles was being dumped into the ocean every minute.

“The ocean is expected to contain one tonne of plastic for every three tonnes of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastics than fish (by weight),” the report stated.

About 150 million tons of plastic are already floating in our oceans with an additional eight million tons entering the water each year.

Workers clean up garbage piling up in Jakarta Bay area. Photo / AP
Workers clean up garbage piling up in Jakarta Bay area. Photo / AP

Researchers recently said a vast dump of plastic waste swirling in the Pacific Ocean was bigger than previously thought and was now bigger than France, Germany and Spain combined.

Often that plastic ends up killing precious marine wildlife.

Sea creatures are particularly affected by our pollution of the oceans. Photo / File
Sea creatures are particularly affected by our pollution of the oceans. Photo / File

“The presence of plastic in the ocean and oceans is one of the greatest threats to the conservation of wildlife throughout the world, as many animals are trapped in the trash or ingest large quantities of plastics that end up causing their death,” a Spanish wildlife official said earlier this year after a juvenile sperm whale washed ashore with nearly 30kg of plastic in its stomach.

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