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More Than 170 Trillion Plastic Particles Afloat in Oceans

More Than 170 Trillion Plastic Particles Afloat in Oceans.
More Than 170 Trillion Plastic Particles Afloat in Oceans. Credit: Bo Eide / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientists have uncovered an alarming increase in plastic pollution in oceans, estimating that more than 170 trillion plastic particles are currently afloat in the world’s waters. The research published by the 5 Gyres Institute in the journal Plos One, examined trends in ocean plastic from 1979 to 2019.

The authors of the study warn that any attempts to clean up the environment will be in vain if the production of plastics is not slowed down, such is the rate at which plastics are currently being released into the environment.

Rapid Increase in Marine Plastic Pollution Blamed on Plastics Industry

According to the findings of the research, there has been a significant acceleration in both the bulk and quantity of ocean plastic since the year 2005. The plastics sector is being criticized for its lack of recycling efforts and for failing to develop products with recyclability in mind.

The researchers have made a plea for global enforcement of corporate responsibility for plastic production in the form of legally binding legislation that addresses the entire plastic production life cycle, beginning with the extraction of raw materials and continuing through the product’s disposal.

Immediate Global Action on Plastic Production Urged

According to the findings of the research, the amount of plastic that ends up in aquatic habitats is predicted to rise by nearly 2.6 times between the years 2016 and 2040 if urgent worldwide action is not taken to reduce the manufacturing of plastic.

Scientists are calling for governments to take action to stem the plastic tide, stating that plastic pollution has a toxic effect on marine life.

Legislation to Limit Production and Sale of Single-Use Plastics Needed

This research comes at a time when member nations of the United Nations are getting ready to make decisions about how to handle the issue of plastic pollution this spring.

Experts have issued a warning that worldwide regulations against plastic are inconsistent, vague, and devoid of any quantitative objectives. They have advocated for the enactment of laws that would restrict the manufacturing and distribution of single-use plastics, as well as for the worldwide enforcement of corporate accountability for plastic production.

The need of enacting legally enforceable legislation that tackles every stage of the life cycle of plastic has been emphasized by scientists.

Time to Address the Plastic Problem at the Source

Dr. Marcus Eriksen, the co-founder of the 5 Gyres Institute, stressed that the exponential growth in the number of microplastics detected in all of the world’s seas is a stern warning that we must act immediately on a worldwide scale. He said this surge should serve as a wake-up call.

“Cleanup is futile if we continue to produce plastic at the current rate, and we have heard about recycling for too long while the plastic industry simultaneously rejects any commitments to buy recycled material or design for recyclability. It’s time to address the plastic problem at the source,” he said.

Dr. Marcus further emphasized that it is time to confront the plastic issue at its source and that it is not enough to just concentrate on efforts to clean up and recycle the waste.

Dr. Edward J. Carpenter, The Estuary and Ocean Science Center at San Francisco State University emphasized the need for legislation that restricts the production and sale of single-use plastics, stating that humans require healthy oceans for a liveable planet. Dr. Carpenter also stressed the need for legislation to limit the production of plastic straws.

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