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Oceans swallowed 13 million tonnes of plastic in 2010

Oceans swallowed 13 million tonnes of plastic in 2010

New Scientist

Image: AbyssWriter

Vast floating islands of plastic are just a drop in the ocean compared with what’s lurking deeper down. Between 5 and 13 million tonnes of plastic debris entered the marine environment in 2010 – and most of it is under water. What’s more, without improvements in the way we manage waste, it could be 10 times as much each year by 2025.

It has been 40 years since the first scientific reports of plastic pollution in the ocean, but we still have plenty to learn. For instance, the combined results from 24 oceanic expeditions published late last year concluded there may be perhaps 244,000 tonnes of floating plastic out there. This is puzzling, because conservative estimates suggest something like 9 million tonnes of plastic have entered the oceans since the 1970s.

Now we know there’s even more missing plastic than that. Jenna Jambeck at the University of Georgia, Athens, and her colleagues have looked at data on plastic use and disposal in 192 coastal countries. They calculate that between 4.8 and 12.7 million tonnes entered the world’s oceans in 2010 alone. This means the amount of plastic that has entered the ocean down the years might be 1000 times more than the mass of floating plastic that scientific surveys have measured. Read more on newscientist.com…