Home / Environmental News / Scientists Predict More Plastic than Fish in the Oceans by 2050 — Here’s What We Can do to Stop it

Scientists Predict More Plastic than Fish in the Oceans by 2050 — Here’s What We Can do to Stop it

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A new analysis on plastic use is confirming the peril descending on the world’s oceans, and the opportunity we have as stewards to change this course.

According to the report published by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, by the year 2050, there will be more plastic in the oceans than there are fish. Right now, one garbage truck of plastic is dumped into the ocean every minute.

“If no action is taken, this is expected to increase to two per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050.

In a business-as-usual scenario, the ocean is expected to contain one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastics than fish (by weight).”

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Perhaps the worst phrase ever coined was, “the solution to pollution is dilution.” It is no truer of toxic chemicals than it is of plastic waste. The oceans can no longer be viewed as a limitless dumping ground.

Plastic production increased twenty-fold over the last 50 years and is expected to quadruple by 2050. Currently, plastic production uses 5% of the world’s oil production, and will increase to 20% within 35 years.

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Just as troubling is the fact that only 5% of plastic is properly recycled, despite the magnitude of efforts undertaken by more developed countries. 40% of plastic waste is sent to a landfill and one-third ends up in the environment, including the oceans.

The effects of this ocean epidemic are captured in videos of marine life being impaled, trapped or killed by plastic. One distressing video shows researchers in Costa Rica removing an entire plastic straw from the nostril of a sea turtle. In another video, a whale asks fishermen for help removing a plastic bag from its head, and then appears to flap its fin in appreciation. One million seabirds die each year from ingesting plastic debris, and up to 90% have plastic in their guts.

“Research released a year ago found there were more than 5 [trillion] pieces of plastic floating in the seas, many just 5mm across. Larger items can be a threat to sea life such as turtles and seals, which swallow them.

Scientists have also found that countless tiny fragments drift to the bottom of the oceans, carpeting the sea bed. The environmental and health impact of this is unknown.” – The Guardian

Microplastic (resulting from the breakdown of larger pieces by sunlight and waves) and microbeads (used in body washes and facial cleansers) are the ocean’s smog. They absorb toxins in the water and enter the food chain, from the smallest plankton to the largest whales as well as humans.

Plastics have undoubtedly become an important part of human life, but the “disposable” attitude cannot be sustained.

Plastics are the workhorse material of the modern economy, with unbeaten properties,” said Dr Martin R Stuchtey of the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment. “However they are also the ultimate single-use material. Growing volumes of end-of-use plastics are generating costs and destroying value to the industry. After-use plastics could, with circular economy thinking, be turned into valuable feedstock.

The key to changing course and avoiding a collapse of ocean life from plastic overdose is to evolve from a “linear ‘take, make, dispose’ economic model’” into a circular plastics economy which is “restorative and regenerative by design.” It borrows principles from earth’s natural systems in which there is no concept of waste.

Besides reducing “negative externalities” such as immense ocean pollution, the application of a circular economy to plastics will increase profitability in the industry.

The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics provides for the first time a vision of a global economy in which plastics never become waste, and outlines concrete steps towards achieving the systemic shift needed. The report, financially supported by the MAVA Foundation, was produced as part of Project MainStream, a global, multi-industry initiative that aims to accelerate business-driven innovations to help scale the circular economy.”

The new report acknowledges that while plastics and plastic packaging are an integral part of the global economy and deliver many benefits, their value chains currently entail significant drawbacks. Assessing global plastic packaging flows comprehensively for the first time, the report finds that most plastic packaging is used only once; 95% of the value of plastic packaging material, worth $80-120 billion annually, is lost to the economy. Additionally, plastic packaging generates negative externalities, valued conservatively by UNEP at $40 billion…

In this context, an opportunity beckons for the plastics value chain to deliver better system-wide economic and environmental outcomes, while continuing to harness the benefits of plastic packaging. The New Plastics Economy, outlined in this report, envisages a new approach based on creating effective after-use pathways for plastics; drastically reducing leakage of plastics into natural systems, in particular oceans; and decoupling plastics from fossil feedstocks.”

The website goes on to describe the principles and characteristics of a circular plastics economy.  Part of the solution will be a “moonshot” approach to creating plastics that can be both recycled and composted.

Aside from a different economic approach, innovations like those of 19-year-old Boyan Slat provide feasible solutions to cleaning up ocean plastic patches. According to the Ocean Clean Up Group, 

Slat’s concept uses the natural ocean currents and winds to passively transport plastic towards a collection platform. Instead of using nets and vessels to remove the plastic from the water, solid floating barriers are used to make entanglement of sea life impossible. By deploying the proposed system for ten years, almost half of the plastic within the Great Pacific Garbage Patch can be removed.

Also, on June 29, 2015, in New York City, Parley for the Oceans Founder Cyrill Gutsch discussed the partnership and showcased their first prototype product.

According to their website,

Adidas created a world first with a shoe upper made entirely of yarns and filaments reclaimed and recycled from ocean waste and illegal deep-sea gillnets.

The concept shoe illustrates the joint commitment of adidas and Parley for the Oceans and offers a first look at the kind of consumer-ready ocean plastic products that will be revealed later this year

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We have reached a point where the ocean ecosystems that help to sustain human life can no longer be taken for granted. It is incumbent upon us to evolve from the disposable attitude that is represented so potently in our use of plastics.

  • If you would like to learn more about this problem and what YOU can do to help you can learn more here: https://youtu.be/4wx5rjcxDYY

  • complete bullshit

  • Im afraid the mother earth may not survive the next 35 years…

  • Let’s take all the plastic, melt it into Lego bricks and use them to build stuff that’s addiquit to their structural integrity.

  • The plastic will come from the developing world, that’s a fact….what concerbs me…is naval sonar warfare that is not mentioned at all. That will kill more fish and greater sea life than plastic.

  • Start making biodegradable hemp plastics

  • Sorry to say the damage is done. Stopping all polluting 100% today is only step #1 and on it’s own will fail. Step #2 undoing the damage already done is absolutley required to make it work!!
    Even if we stop all CO2 emmisions today 100% sea ice will still melt, Methane will still bubble up from the ocean and perma frost with still be melting in the north. All of those things are happening right now therefor stoping everything today without reversing the damage will still allow those things to occur. And they will increase global temps all by themselves. Methane from the ocean and perma frost are 20X worse than CO2. And the ice is already melting at these temps so holding to a 2.0 degree increase over pre-industrial revolution numbers does not help solve the problem.
    We not only must stop we must find away to lower the global temp by 3.0 degrees minimum….
    I have not even touched on all the chemicals that we are flushing into every water source on the planet. Nor have I touched on land destruction for the purpose of biulding. Nor have I touched on resource acquisition and the destruction caused by that process!!

  • We know this about plastic yet no government has come out a banned plastic in it’s current form. We can solve these problems right now. It will take a ton of hardship but can be done. So why is it not being done? The hardship aspect!!
    We need the generation that lived through WW1 and WW2 to come back to life and teach us again that hardship is a fact of life and how best to deal with it and thrive.
    Since most are dead and gone the lessons have been lost as well as the teachers.
    What my Grandma could do with 20$ worth of food my sister requires near 100$ worth of food.

  • RECYCLE. Turn it into profitable 3D printer filaments!

  • Scientists say what the research grant wants them to say.

  • Sadly humans are making very bad Causes

  • No one wants more debris in the ocean…………but anyone who believes there is more plastic than fish in the ocean……….must have went to a left wing nut liberal institution of higher learning………..I fish………….I fish alot………I have seen with my eyes and with fishfinders acres and miles of fish 40 and 50 ft thick…………so take your book grind it up and mix it with your legal weed and smoke more,.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,your totally clueless about how vast the oceans are and the life that lives in it

  • If you knew ANYTHING about the bio of fish life………you would also know that almost anything can and does get used by fish to protect themselves against predators……….plastic bottles provide safety against predators…………AGAIN I do NOT promote putting debris in the ocean…………but its a tiny issue compared to ISLAMIC TERROR a NUCLEAR IRAN………another democrat regime in the US come to mind first and foremost

  • Hemp Plastic is an answer! If gov would let it!

  • April Moore

  • This is mainly dumped by Chinese and other foreign vessels, not US vessels or consumers.

  • So let the fucking dome crab plastic grabber thing that kid invented or patented or whatever do it. I don’t remember much of fuck all about it. But yeah. That. Best solution to date. You can’t just shut off how virtually everything is packaged now. It’s just not plausible at this time in human existence, so until it is it’s that or something along those lines of, essentially, a giant skimmer of sorts. I won’t act like I know the mechanics behind it but I’m fully certain it’s more feasible.

  • Give the tweekers access to boats and let them recycle it

  • are these the same idiots that swear man made global warming is real?

  • The time to act was 1985 , That was the Tipping Point , Now is the Tipping Over point !! Humans have Manscaped this planet !!

  • Mark Black

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