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Experts Warn of More Plastic than Fish in the Sea


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Video provided by Newsy Newslook

It’s often said that there are plenty of fish in the ocean, but did you ever think that there might be just as much plastic as fish floating around out there?

A disturbing report by the World Economic Forum and Ellen MacArthur Foundation shows that the world’s oceans are on target to have a 1:1 ratio of plastic to fish (by weight) by 2050. And not to be alarmist, but all this plastic paints a pretty perturbing picture. Here’s why:

  • Currently, 32% of all plastic packaging is never collected—instead, it eventually finds its way into natural ecosystems like streams, rivers and oceans.
  • It’s estimated that there are currently five plastic grocery bags full of plastic for every foot of coastline.
  • By 2025 (just nine years from now!) the amount of plastic waste available to enter the oceans could more than double, according to a study published in Science.
  • Much of the plastic in our oceans consists of discarded fishing line as well as “mismanaged plastic”—things like plastic water bottles and food wrappers that are washed into the ocean after being carelessly discarded.
  • Which countries are the worst? The quality of waste management systems as well as population size largely determine which countries contribute the greatest mass of uncaptured waste available to become plastic marine debris, according to the Science study.
  • Most plastic trash now comes from China, India and other countries experiencing rapid economic growth. According to Kara Lavender Law, research professor at the Massachusetts-based Sea Education Association, “Their consumption is rapidly accelerating, but the infrastructure hasn’t caught up yet.”
  • In 2010, between 10.5 billion and 28 billion tons of plastic entered the ocean from people living within 31 miles of the coastline.
  • Though developed nations like the U.S. have good waste management systems, another problem is volume. “We produce so much trash per person that even the small amount that leaks out adds up to a huge number . . . ,” Law said.
  • Captain Paul Watson estimates in “The Plastic Sea” (July 24, 2006) that sixty billion pounds of resin pellets are manufactured in the U.S. every year. These plastic pellets are melted and then molded to create plastic products. They are found in oceans throughout the world, typically entering them either through direct spills during cargo-handling operations at ports, spills at sea or via storm water discharges that carry them from industrial sites.
  • The highest concentrations of ocean plastic are found in five rotating currents, called gyres. Recently a potential sixth gyre was discovered.
  • On average there is six times more plastic than zooplankton by dry weight in these gyres.
  • The North Pacific Gyre alone is estimated to be twice the size of the state of Texas.
  • Marine animals like sea birds and turtles often mistake floating debris for food. And small sea creatures can also be fooled by disintegrating plastic, mistaking it for plankton.
  • Scientists at the University of California, Davis, found that around 25% of fish samples from markets in Indonesia and fishing boats in California were filled with plastic and debris such as clothing fibers.

I could go on, but you get the picture.

Fortunately, there is hope.

The Good News:

As the problem of plastic pollution in our oceans is swelling, more and more are now taking action to combat the rising tide.

  • Organizations like The Washed Ashore Project are bringing awareness to the forefront by creating beautiful artwork that speaks louder than statistics.
  • Since 1991 the Society of Plastics Industries (SPI), the major national trade association for manufacturers of plastic products in the U.S., has been working with the EPA to identify and minimize the sources of plastic pellet entry into the ocean.
  • The Ocean Cleanup Array, a floating network of barriers designed to extract plastic for recycling, is slated for testing off the coast of The Netherlands later this year. Boyan Slat, the 21-year-old Founder and CEO of Ocean Cleanup, explains in this video from The Huffington Post.
  • The Trash Free Seas Alliance® is bringing together industry, science and nonprofit leaders who share a common goal for a healthy ocean free of trash.
  • You and I can make small, conscious choices to reduce waste overall and plastic where it’s not necessary. Replace foam cups with reusable coffee mugs, plastic bags with a lunch box, and avoid disposable packaging whenever possible.

Together, we can make a difference!

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Resources:

Newsy: Oceans Could Hold More Plastic Than Fish by 2015
World Economic Forum: The New Plastics Economy
USA Today: By 2050, our oceans will hold more plastic than fish
The Telegraph: Each foot of coastline contains five bags of plastic, say scientists
Science: Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean
takepart: Ocean Plastic Pollution Could Double in a Decade—but There’s a Solution
Sea Shepherd: The Plastic Sea
Mindfully: Plastic Pellets in the Aquatic Environment:
Sources and Recommendations

takepart: There’s a One-in-Four Chance the Fish You Just Ordered Contains Plastic
EcoWatch: Plastic Trash Found in Arctic Ocean, Likely Forming Sixth Garbage Patch
Norwex Movement: Partnerships
Encyclopedia: Ocean Facts
Aljazerra: Oceans to have more plastic than fish by 2050: Report
The Ocean Cleanup Project
Scientific Reports: Plastic debris and fibers from textiles in fish and bivalves sold for human consumption
Ocean Conservancy
Norwex Movement: Social Media
Facebook: This 21-Year-Old is Cleaning Up Our Oceans

Have You Committed to Reducing Your Use of Plastic?

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Carrie Minturn
Carrie Minturn
5 years ago

Ugh. Thank you for this summary. Grateful for Norwex and encouragement to keep taking small steps that make a difference.

Karen Ward
Karen Ward
5 years ago

These statistics are mind boggling, we ALL need to work a whole lot harder to get this enormous problem under control. Keep spreading the word, we need this message to be heard.

Penny Drouse
Penny Drouse
5 years ago

It can definitely get controlled one person at a time. I’ll be sharing the norwex movement and getting more people educated.

Shelly Latsch
Shelly Latsch
5 years ago

I am just flabbergasted…I guess I never realized this problem is SO out of hand!!

Melissa Short
Melissa Short
5 years ago

I’m so thankful to Norwex and their mission. Since joining sharing Norwex over a year ago, I am so much better educated at the landfill problems, chemicals in our daily lives and the overuse of plastic. There have been so many changes here in our home and it’s a lot simpler to use too. I CRINGE when I see aluminum foil anymore!! I know it’s not plastic, but so many people here in the Midwest use it and and don’t think anything beyond throwing it out. My family’s use of plastic has decreased sharply because of your education. Thank you!

Moderator
Admin
Moderator
5 years ago
Reply to  Melissa Short

Thank you for the encouragement, Melissa. We are glad to be part of a growing Movement that’s making a difference! (And please encourage your friends to rinse and recycle their aluminum foil.)

Leah Rissien
Leah Rissien
4 years ago

I recently ran across this article, too. It’s truly appalling what our use of plastics is doing to the creatures who share our world. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/03/160331-car-parts-plastics-dead-whales-germany-animals/

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Admin
Moderator
4 years ago
Reply to  Leah Rissien

Thanks for sharing, Leah!

Heather Wiese
Heather Wiese
3 years ago

I wonder how hard it would be to convince manufacturers to go back to glass and metal containers? Are there any options other than these? Curious minds want to know…

Jennifer Rottman
Jennifer Rottman
3 years ago

Scary numbers for the amount of plastic in the oceans. I look forward to decreasing my plastic usage and increasing my recycling.

Gingi Freeman
Gingi Freeman
3 years ago

My efforts to reduce plastic have always more for the “healthy for me” side of things.. less BPA, etc… but reading this blog has gotten me thinking bigger.. and now keeping an eye on my impact on the planet as well!