Things don’t appear to be getting much better for our oceans—a new study from the World Economic Foundation and Ellen MacArthur Foundation believes that by 2050, the weight of plastic trash in the oceans will exceed the combined weight of all its fish.
The report details the facts that, “95% of the value of plastic packaging material, worth $80-120 billion annually, is lost to the economy. Given projected growth in consumption, in a business-as-usual scenario, by 2050 oceans are expected to contain more plastics than fish (by weight), and the entire plastics industry will consume 20% of total oil production, and 15% of the annual carbon budget.”
The oceans already contain the Great Pacific garbage patch, an area of debris potentially estimated to be the size of the continental United States.
Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara estimate that humans deposit 4.8 and 12.7 million metric tons of plastic into the oceans every year—this will not reduce unless we drastically increase plastic recycling and cut down on plastic waste.
According to the Foundation’s report, the best ways to begin “systemic change” are to “[create] effective after-use pathways for plastics; drastically [reduce] leakage of plastics into natural systems, in particular oceans; and [decouple] plastics from fossil feedstocks.”
Other, more comprehensive suggestions to combat this are outlined in the report. Yet the report’s underlying message seems to hint that without global participation and radical change across the consumer market and plastic industry, progress will falter.
Banner Image Credit: Twitter, @AndersVJensen