We Suck: There Are Now Over 5 Trillion Pieces Of Plastic In The Ocean
Human beings have put over 250,000 tons of plastic into the world’s oceans, a new study has found, an estimate researchers called “highly conservative.”
A team from the Five Gyres Institute in Los Angeles made 24 trips between 2007 and 2013, observing or collecting plastic from 1,571 locations, the Washington Post reports.
Most pieces were between just 1 and 4.75 mm in size, but those larger than 200 mm contributed to the majority of the total weight.
The findings led researchers to conclude that more than 5 trillion individual pieces of plastic are in the ocean, which comes out to each of the world’s 7.2 billion people contributing 700 pieces on his or her own.
Ocean currents are thought to play a huge role in sending trash all throughout the globe, as there were relatively equal amounts of plastic in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, despite the latter having a much lower population.
Study author Marcus Eriksen said,
What we are witnessing in the global ocean is a growing threat of toxin-laden microplastics cycling through the entire marine ecosystem.
The authors referenced statistics calculated by trade group Plastics Europe to show there is probably far more plastic in the ocean than the study’s evidence proved.
Those figures state that 288 million tons of plastic are produced a year, and the 5 million pieces the study reported make up just 0.1 percent of that.
Plastic that does not get recycled usually gets dumped into the ocean where it is broken down and distributed into spiraling ocean gyres, creating giant tornadoes of trash.
Fish not only get tangled in plastic but also constantly mistake it for food, which could lead to humans ingesting dangerous chemicals if we happen to eat those fish.
Eriksen said that it’s time the world realizes that literally every single piece of plastic needs to be recycled.
The American Chemistry Council said in a statement that plastic should be treated as a vital source of energy and that the plastic makers it represents will follow through with their 2011 vow to fight ocean pollution.