Scientists have estimated that the amount of plastics being dumped into the world’s oceans is estimated to be around 8m tonnes every year. According to the research, this is set to double in the next ten years.
New research published in the journal Science estimates that 4-12 million tonnes of plastic are dumped every year by coastal countries.
The research team looked at how much plastic waste every coastal country in the world produces and estimated how much of it could potentially spill into the sea because it ends up as litter or in open dumps and leaky landfills.
The scientists figured roughly 15% to 40% of that littered or dumped plastic enters the ocean each year.
Adding together all 192 countries in the world with a significant coastal population, the researchers reported that about 4 million to 12 million metric tons of plastic washed offshore in 2010 alone, or about 1.5% to 4.5% of the world’s total plastic production—enough to cover every foot of coastline on the planet.
“Without waste management infrastructure improvements, the cumulative quantity of plastic waste available to enter the ocean from land is predicted to increase by an order of magnitude by 2025″
Researchers say that just the beginning of the problem, as scientists still don’t know where more than 99% of ocean plastic debris ends up—and what impact it’s having on marine life and the human food supply.
What’s more, the authors of the report predict that the annual amount of plastic waste tumbling out to sea will more than double in the next 10 years.
The study says that unless waste management practices are improved, the flux of plastics to the oceans could increase by an order of magnitude within the next decade.
The report states: “Plastic debris in the marine environment is widely documented, but the quantity of plastic entering the ocean from waste generated on land is unknown. By linking worldwide data on solid waste, population density, and economic status, we estimated the mass of land-based plastic waste entering the ocean.
“We calculate that 275m metric tons (MT) of plastic waste was generated in 192 coastal countries in 2010, with 4.8 to 12.7m MT entering the ocean. Population size and the quality of waste management systems largely determine which countries contribute the greatest mass of uncaptured waste available to become plastic marine debris.
“Without waste management infrastructure improvements, the cumulative quantity of plastic waste available to enter the ocean from land is predicted to increase by an order of magnitude by 2025.”
The last estimate was in 1975, when a National Academy of Sciences study hazarded a guess that about 0.1% of global plastic production sweeps out to sea annually.
The research was conducted by scientists at the University of California Santa Barbara’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis. They looked at 192 coastal countries in 2010 and how they disposed of their plastic.
They found that 20 countries were responsible for 83 percent of the litter that entered the oceans, the top being China.
- Sri Lanka.
- South Africa.
- North Korea.
- United States.