Plastic pollution is one the greatest challenges to our environment.
Global plastic production has increased by 20 times during the past 50 years. It is expected to double in the next 20 years at predicted production rate. In particular, packaging represents 26% of the total volume of plastics used. A recent study published in Science Advances estimates that between year 1950 and 2015, 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic had been produced globally, out of which 6.3 billion tonnes (76%) became plastic waste.
Each year, at least 8 million tonnes of plastic leak into the ocean, which is equivalent to dumping the content of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute, according to the World Economic Forum. If no action is taken, this is expected to increase to four garbage trucks per minute by 2050, resulting in more plastics than fish (by weight) in the ocean.
Ocean plastic pollution has vast and detrimental impact on marine wildlife, in addition to harming human health and the climate.
According to a study from Polymouth University, plastic pollution affects at least 700 marine species and is estimated to kill at least 100 million marine mammls each year.
Ocean plastic wastes can also break into microplastic particles and get eaten by fishes, which will end up in our food chain and hurt human health in accumulated concentration.
Today, plastic production also accounts for 6% of global oil consumption. If no action is taken, by 2050, plastic production will hit 20% of global oil consumption.
Recycling is helpful but not enough.
Of the 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic wastes to date, only 9% had been recycled, 12% was incinerated, and 79% had been accumulated in landfills, of which the majority will end up in the ocean, the final sink, at some point. The global recycling rate for plastic is far below that for paper (58%) and iron and steel (70 - 90%).
Fortunately, there are many simple ways in which we can make a difference:
- Refuse single-use plastic whenever possible.
- Avoid products with ingredients harmful to the environment, such as microbeads.
- Do not buy what you do not need and buy eco-friendly options when possible.
- Be creative and reuse available resources, such as empty containers and gift wraps.
- Recycle properly.
- Participate in a beach cleanup and support organizations that address ocean plastic pollution.
- Stay informed on related issues and spread the words.