Unless humans make major changes, the amount of plastic polluting the world’s oceans is expected to triple within a decade, a new UK government report warns.
There was an estimated 150 million tons of plastic floating around in the world’s oceans in 2015. That number is set to triple by 2025, according to a new report released by the UK government yesterday.
It previously been predicted there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans, by weight, by 2050.
Plastic is just one many substances polluting the ocean, including pesticides, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, and industrial toxins like PCBs, the report says.
Still, non-degradable plastic is the biggest polluter, comprising 70 percent of all marine litter.
Another recent study found ocean plastic is estimated to increase tenfold between 2010 and 2020.
“Our future estimates are in line with the growth of plastic in our waste stream and also population growth,”professor of environmental engineering at the University of Georgia Jenna Jambeck told The Independent.
In addition to a growing global population, growing industrialization in developing countries is a huge factor, she said.
“More recent research has focused on plastics fragmenting into smaller pieces in the ocean and becoming microplastic particles,” Dr Jambeck said. “These smaller particles are more available to the lower end of the food chain, for example smaller fish,”
The sea covers 70 percent of Earth’s surface and plays an essential role in regulating global temperature, water, and oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.
“The major response is likely to lie in preventing it from entering the sea, introducing new biodegradable plastic, and potentially public awareness campaigns about marine protection,” the report said.
“Nine billion people will be looking to the ocean for more food in 2025,” one of the report’s authors, professor Edward Hill from the UK National Oceanography Centre, told BBC News.
“Yet we know so little of what’s down there.”
“We invest a lot of money and enthusiasm for missions to space – but there’s nothing living out there. The sea bed is teeming with life. We really need a mission to planet ocean – it’s the last frontier.”