A new survey has revealed the full extent of the plastic problem in the world’s oceans. The research estimates more than 5 trillion pieces weighing nearly 250,000 tons are floating through the seas.
The first floating islands of plastic and other trash were identified more than 20 years ago. In addition, plastic has been found in the stomachs of diverse marine life, including whales, birds, and turtles. A study published in PLOS ONE estimates the global abundance and distribution of ocean plastic: based on data collected during 24 expeditions from 2007 to 2013 along with and information from visual survey transects, the researchers’ model predicted that the oceans contain “a minimum of 5.25 trillion particles weighing 268,940 tons.”
In a review of the study, Andrés Cózar of Spain’s University of Cadiz who was not involved in the study told The New York Times: “There is too much plastic in the ocean. The current model of management of plastic materials is (economically and ecologically) unsustainable.”
By weight, the largest source of ocean plastic comes from discarded fishing nets and buoys. Other sources include consumer trash, such as bottles, toothbrushes, bags, and toys. In essence, the oceans contain everything you can imagine made of plastic. In contrast to the large items, tiny bits of plastic were less common than expected, possibly because they are falling to deeper waters or consumed by fish or other animals… see more