FunNature & AnimalHow much plastic is there in the sea?

How much plastic is there in the sea?

The problem of pollution of the oceans due to plastic waste acquires every day greater dimensions. We are all familiar with images of the great islands of garbage, places where ocean currents converge and huge accumulations of plastic are produced. The island of garbage in the Pacific, for example, is so large that some call it ‘the eighth continent’. In addition, what we see on the surface would only be the tip of the iceberg because, although the estimates are different depending on the source, it is known that a large part of the plastic waste ends up on the seabed, not to mention the microplastics that we do not detect due to to its small size.

In 2015, a study published in the journal Nature and which is already a reference when talking about figures, warned that each year about eight million tons of plastic would be entering the world’s oceans. In addition, it is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastics than fish in the oceans. So how much plastic is accumulated in the water?

It is a difficult question to solve, although some studies have tried to give figures in the case of floating plastic, which is easier to measure. For example, a study published in 2014 in the journal PLOS ONE estimated that there would be some five trillion pieces of plastic floating on the surface of the world’s oceans weighing about 270,000 tonnes. The scientists made the calculation based on data from 24 ocean expeditions made to different parts of the world over six years.

The important thing is to reduce the entry of plastic into the sea

Although there are various initiatives dedicated to removing the plastic that pollutes our oceans, given these figures the most logical solution to curb the problem is to cut off the sources of entry. According to a Greenpeace report, 80% of the waste we find in the sea comes from land, and 20% from maritime activity. The NGO also provides another piece of information: only 9% of the plastic currently produced is recycled , 12% is incinerated, and 79% ends up in landfills or in the environment. This terrestrial garbage later ends up in the sea by various processes: meteorological phenomena, coastal tourism, illegal dumps, drains or river channels.

In 2017, a study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology analyzed the amount of plastic carried by rivers to the sea globally based on data from various previous studies. His conclusion was interesting: around 90% of the global entry of plastic to the sea is produced by the contributions of only ten large river systems , eight of them located in Asia and two in Africa. Although the authors warn that it would be necessary to contrast these data empirically, improving waste management in these large channels would already be a very good measure to reduce the global entry of plastic into the ocean.

Finally, in this infographic made by the Aquae Foundation you can consult in a very graphic way some data related to the amount of plastic in the sea.

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