- According to a study published recently in the journal PLoS ONE, an estimated 170 trillion plastic particles weighing about 2 million metric tons are currently afloat in the oceans across the world.
- The study cautions that if no urgent action is taken then this number could nearly triple by 2040.
Findings of the Study
- A vast majority of these plastic particles found on the ocean’s surface are microplastics.
- Between 1990 and 2005, the number of plastic particles more or less fluctuated due to International conventions like MARPOL that enforced laws against dumping trash at sea.
- Since 2005 more than 5,000,000 tons of new plastic have been produced into the world.
- If the world fails to take any drastic action about the issue, there will be a 2.6-fold increase in plastic flowing into aquatic environments by 2040.
- Microplastics are tiny plastic particles that measure less than 5mm in diameter.
- Adverse effects of microplastics:
- Microplastics are particularly harmful to the oceans as they don’t readily break down into harmless molecules.
- They adversely affect the health of marine organisms, which mistake plastic for food.
- Ingestion of microplastics by marine organisms, from phytoplankton to whales and dolphins, can cause problems, such as lacerations and blockages to internal systems.
- Microplastics absorb many hydrophobic compounds, like DDT and other industrial chemicals, and evidence shows they can be released when ingested.
- Microplastics can also disrupt the carbon cycle of the oceans.
- They can trigger loss of biodiversity and threaten ecosystem balance.
- There is an urgent need to implement a global resolution to limit the production of single-use, throwaway plastic.
- We must ensure that cities are responsible for waste management and reduce the amount of chemical additives in new plastic products.
- Industries have to legally be required to put at least 75% recycled plastic in any new product.