We’re Not Doing Nearly Enough To Stop The Planet’s Spiraling Plastic Problem

The planet’s plastic problem is swirling out of control and current efforts to get out of this mess are nowhere near tough enough, according to a new study.

New research published in the journal Science revealed that 24 to 34 million metric tons of plastic pollution currently enters the marine environment every year. That’s around 11 percent of the total plastic waste generated across the world. Things are only set to get worse in the coming decade, with up to 53-90 million tons expected to end up in the marine environment each year by 2030.

Back in 2015, the level of plastic pollution released in the oceans and waterways was said to be 8 million metric tons. If the world was to cut down plastic pollution to less than this level, it would require an extraordinary global effort: a 25 to 40 percent reduction in the production of plastic across all economies; increasing the level of waste collection and management to at least 60 percent across all economies; and recovery of 40 percent of annual plastic emissions through cleanup efforts.

“To put that last number into people power, the cleanup alone would require at least 1 billion people participating in Ocean Conservancy’s annual International Coastal Cleanup. This would be a Herculean task given this is 660 times the effort of the 2019 cleanup,” Stephanie Borrelle, lead author and Smith Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto in Canada, said in a statement.

It will require a coordinated global effort to even start addressing this problem, although it does appear that some countries will need more focus and attention. China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka are the planet’s worst polluters. In fact, China alone appears to be linked to at least one-third of plastic pollution. However, the blame is not squarely on them; many of these Asian countries, especially China, have imported a huge amount of plastic and other recyclables from foreign countries, notably from Europe and North America.

“Unless growth in plastic production and use is halted, a fundamental transformation of the plastic economy to a framework based on recycling is essential, where end-of-life plastic products are valued rather than becoming waste,” added Chelsea Rochman, senior study author and assistant professor in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto.

The scale of death and damage caused by the relentless outflow of plastic pollutants is unknown, but it’s certainly taking a toll on the health of our ecosystems. As just one of many examples, a study in 2019 found at least 1,000 documented instances where sharks and rays had become entangled in oceanic plastic waste. There have also been numerous recent reports of whales washing up dead with balls of plastic pollution in their guts.

Plastic pollution may start off as discarded fishing nets or soda bottles, but it can eventually degrade into microplastics that range from 5 millimeters to 100 nanometres across. These microplastic particles have infiltrated practically every ecosystem on Earth, from Antarctica’s ice to the belly’s of the planet’s deepest living creatures. They can even be found in human poop and human organs.


This article was originally published on

Recent news

Tropical Tracker: Have there been storms after hurricane season ends?

Hurricane season runs through Nov. 30 ORLANDO, Fla. – There is still about five weeks… Read more

Storm-battered U.S. Gulf Coast braces for Hurricane Delta

KEY POINTS Hurricane Delta, which mostly spared Mexico on Wednesday, is now strengthening over the… Read more

Taur electric scooter is built for life on the road

Folks wanting to leave the car at home may look to electric kickscooters for last… Read more

Epsilon Becomes the 10th Hurricane This Season

A tropical storm watch is in effect for Bermuda. Epsilon has become a hurricane, making… Read more

Tropical Storm Epsilon likely to gain hurricane strength

Tropical Storm Epsilon is expected to strengthen into a hurricane late this week as it… Read more

Yelp wants to give adult children $2,000 to help move out of their parents’ houses

Over half of young adults, or 26.6 million of those ages 18 to 29, live… Read more

Tropical Depression Twenty-Seven Forms in the Central Atlantic, Should Intensify Into a Hurricane

Tropical Depression Twenty-Seven has formed in the Atlantic. The depression is forecast to become Hurricane… Read more

Tropical Depression 27 forms in Atlantic, TS Epsilon expected to form soon

Tropical Depression 27 formed Monday morning in the Atlantic and has odds of growing into… Read more

Henkel Addresses Plastic Waste

Supports call for UN treaty on plastic pollution. Henkel, together with 28 other major global… Read more

It might be worth it to move to a cheaper city, even if your company cuts your pay

Trying to move but weighing a potential pay cut? It still might be worth it.… Read more