The United Kingdom’s Environmental Investigations Agency (EIA) says that plastic will outweigh fish in the planet’s oceans by 2050.
The EIA released an environmental report on Tuesday that calls for a treaty to fight the rapid growth in plastic pollution occurring in the ocean.
The EIA reports that over the course of the next five years, there will be 250 million metric tons of plastic in the world’s oceans. By 2040, there will be 700 million tons—the equivalent of the weight of all the fish in the ocean combined. By the mid-century point, the plastic in the ocean “will far exceed” the density of fish in the entire planet’s oceans.
The agency’s ocean campaigner, Tom Gammage, fears that the “tidal wave of pollution (will) continue unchecked,” and that there will be three times the amount of plastic pollution in the ocean by 2040.
“The damage done by rampant overproduction of virgin plastics and their life-cycle is irreversible—this is a threat to human civilization and the planet’s basic ability to maintain a habitable environment,” said Gammage.
Plastic pollution worsened by the pandemic
A gigantic quantity of COVID-19 plastic waste, amounting to an astounding 28,000 tons of trash, has been dumped into the world’s oceans since the beginning of the pandemic, according to a recent study.
Masks, gloves, and other waste that has been produced en masse in the past year and a half have now ended up in the seas that cover our planet—amounting to so much that in a few years, they may begin circling around the North Pole.
Such huge quantities of protective materials have been produced since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic that plastic conservation efforts that had begun to show real progress before that time have been dealt a serious blow, according to the report, as detailed in Live Science.
Plastic waste problem had improved before pandemic, experts say
Before the pandemic hit, they say, the nations of the world had begun to see important improvements in the regulation of plastics and in their reduction around the globe.
But the necessity of having protective materials, including facemasks and plastic or rubber gloves, as well as disposable materials of nearly every other kind, has brought that effort back to the drawing board.
Now, experts say, more than two thousand double decker buses’ worth of waste is floating in the oceans, according to this week’s report in The Guardian.
The report said that researchers found 193 countries produced a total of 9.2 million tons (8.4 million metric tons) of plastic waste associated with the COVID-19 pandemic from March of 2020 to the middle of August of this year.
Most of the plastics, approximately 87.4 percent, were used by medical facilities, while just 7.6 percent resulted from individual use, the study said. Plastic packaging, along with test kits, comprised approximately 4.7 percent and 0.3 percent of the waste, respectively, according to the study, which was published on Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Using what they already knew about the operation of waste streams, the researchers created a model to extrapolate just how much of this plastic waste ended up in the oceans of the world after it was discarded. They state that, as of Aug. 23, 2021, approximately 28,550 tons (25,900 metric tons) of plastic waste generated during the pandemic—some of it undoubtedly once contaminated with COVID-19—was already in the oceans.