December 12, 2019
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There will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050, according to this report

Tony Reaves | BDN
Tony Reaves | BDN

The huge amount of plastic waste floating around in the world’s oceans is expected to get a lot worse in the next 35 years or so.

A new report by the World Economic Forum estimates that by 2050, the weight of all the plastic in the oceans will surpass the weight of all the fish.

That’s based on how much more plastic we’re expected to produce in that time — and the fact that nearly a third of our plastic waste ends up in the oceans, according to the report.

[Editorial: Plastics and peril: The downside of microbeads]

The use of plastics across the world increased 20-fold over the past 50 years and global production of plastic in 2050 is expected to be triple what it was in 2014, approximately 1,124 million tons.

The plastics industry will also “consume 20 percent of total oil production and 15 percent of the annual carbon budget,” according to the WEF.

The amount of trash that ends up in the ocean is staggering. According to The Washington Post:

Meanwhile, humans do a terrible job of making sure those products are reused or otherwise disposed of: About a third of all plastics produced escape collection systems, only to wind up floating in the sea or the stomach of some unsuspecting bird. That amounts to about 8 million metric tons a year — or, as Jenna Jambeck of the University of Georgia put it to The Washington Post in February, “Five bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world.”

The WEF’s report — which comes from analyzing 200 reports and interviewing 180 experts — says that this problem is going to require a massive shift in the way that the world thinks about how it handles plastics.

According to the Huffington Post:

“This report demonstrates the importance of triggering a revolution in the plastics industrial ecosystem,” Dominic Waughray of the World Economic Forum said in a statement, “and is a first step to showing how to transform the way plastics move through our economy.”

The presence of plastic in the world’s oceans is already being felt here in Maine.

In a BDN Maine contributor post last year, Susan Shaw, director and founder of the Marine & Environmental Research Institute, wrote that her organization found 27 plastic fragments in every liter of seawater in Blue Hill Bay. And the group even “found large numbers of microplastic fragments in the tissues of oysters and mussels.”

[MORE: You’re probably eating the tiny plastic beads in your neighbor’s exfoliating scrub]



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