We know. We've been told. The plastic waste that has been piling up in our oceans is out of control. But sometimes, when the problem is so far away, we can lose track of how dire the situation truly is.

A viral video from researchers in the South Pacific has put the consequences of our actions front and center.

The footage, published on the World Wildlife Foundation's (WFF) Facebook page, shows a group of penguins floating on what appears to be an island of plastic.

The shocking video has caused viral outrage since it was first posted in April 2018, with many people online wanting to know, "How could humans have done this?"

It turns out, the entire video was actually a viral hoax - but one with a serious message.

According to the fact-checking website Snopes, the footage was digitally manipulated by the WWF to make it appear as though the penguins were scrambling over plastic.

But don't go screaming, "Fake news!" just yet. According to the WWF, the whole thing was supposed to be educational. When they posted the video on their Facebook page, they also attached an article explaining the point.

"Fortunately, our discovery of penguins on the island made of plastic waste is not genuine," the article reads.

"But we live in a world where such hazards from plastic pollution could very quickly become real, so there's no April Fool punchline, just serious background," it continues.

The WWF's goal? To send us to the naughty corner and make us think about what we've done – or, more accurately, what we're about to do.

"Therefore, we should all reflect to ourselves on what we do to our planet with our daily behaviour," the WWF article continues.

"Plastic smothers our seas and we need to act urgently before stories that sound impossible become possible."

And really, when humans are dumping ten million tons of plastic into the ocean every year, what other outcome is there?

By 2050, scientists predict that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. It's not hard to imagine a future in which penguins are forced to hunker down on a pile of human waste.