Our oceans are rapidly filling up with plastic trash and will soon be clogged with it too. According to a report by the journal Science, in 2010 itself, a staggering eight million tons of plastic trash went into oceans from the 192 coastal countries of the world. Backed by extensive research and data analysis, the study also mentions that the rate at which this trash is increasing. It mentions that the amount of plastic going inside ocean will inflate by ten times in the next ten years.
Can’t get your head around this figure? Jenna Jambeck, lead author of the study and assistant professor of environmental engineering at the University of Georgia offers a visual for it. The figure of eight million is equivalent to “five plastic grocery bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world.”
According to Jenna, by 2025, the amount of plastic trash in the ocean will increase to 10 bags per foot of coastline. There have been previous studies as well usually counting just the plastic floating around on the ocean surface. But it is the first time that a report has given a clear quantity of how much trash we are actually deep in.
This study has also estimated the amount of plastic entering marine environment through individual countries. There are 20 countries which have made into the list of worst plastic polluters in the world. China tops the list with 11 other Asian countries (including Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh). Turkey, 5 African countries (including Nigeria and Egypt), Brazil and USA are part of the list as well.
Places where plastic trash has been found is shocking. Ocean plastic has been found in deep sea, floating with ocean currents, remotest of beaches and even artic ice. This trash is anything - bags, bottles, wrappers, buckets, sunglasses, toilet seats, almost everything. Hundreds of marine wildlife species have ingested it and succumbed to its toxicity.
As this lethal garbage damages ocean ecosystem it finds its way back to our dinner table when we consume sea food.
Dealing With Ocean Trash
Once trash makes its way inside the ocean, cleaning it up is an impractical solution. One might argue that large size of plastic trash can be scooped out of the ocean. However, it might not make any major difference in the trash level if countries continue to ingest oceans with more and more trash every year.
Australia’s national science agency CSIRO too shared some alarming statistics last year. According to Dr Chris Wilcox, an ecologist at CSIRO, "If we are doubling what we are putting into the ocean on a ten-year basis, there's no way to keep up. It would be as if you were vacuuming your living room, and I'm standing at the doorway with a bag of dust and a fan. You can constantly keep vacuuming, but you could never catch up."
Another concern is that a lot of plastic in the ocean is degraded plastic or micro plastic. It is broken down by sunlight and waves into tiny bits and it will be impossible to get that out of the ocean. Best option thus is to improve waste management on land. Waste management techniques incorporated by the countries matter a lot. China produces 1.10 kg of waste per person per day as compared to US producing 2.6 kg of waste. Still US ranked lower on the 20 top worst plastic polluters list because of its better waste management practices.
Let this report be a wake-up call for all the nations who must take strong measures to dispose of their trash responsibly.