Ocean Action Hub

9 Dec 2019 - The world now produces more than 380 million tonnes of plastic every year, which could end up as pollutants, entering our natural environment and oceans.

Of course, not all of our plastic waste ends up in the ocean, most ends up in landfills: it’s estimated that the share of global plastic waste that enters the ocean is around 3%.1 In 2010 – the year for which we have the latest estimates – that was around 8 million tonnes.2

Most of the plastic materials we produce are less dense than water and should therefore float at the ocean surface. But our best estimates of the amount of plastic afloat at sea are orders of magnitude lower than the amount of plastic that enters our oceans in a single year: as we show in the visualization, it’s far lower than 8 million tonnes and instead in the order of 10s to 100s of thousands of tonnes. One of the most widely-quoted estimates is 250,000 tonnes.3

If we currently pollute our oceans with millions of tonnes of plastic each year, we must have released tens of millions of tonnes in recent decades. Why then do we find at least 100 times less plastics in our surface waters?

This discrepancy is often referred to as the ‘missing plastic problem’.4 It’s a conundrum we need to address if we want to understand where plastic waste could end up, and what its impacts might be for wildlife, ecosystems and health.

CONTINE READING ONLINE HERE: https://ourworldindata.org/where-does-plastic-accumulate

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Publication date: 
09/12/2019
Publication Organisation: 
Our World in Data
Publication Author: 
Hannah Ritchie
Thematic Area: 
Marine pollution
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