Daily Mail

170 trillion bits of plastic waste choke our oceans

- By Colin Fernandez Environmen­t Editor

MORE than 170 trillion pieces of plastic weighing 2.3million tons are floating in our oceans, shocking research shows.

Without global policy changes experts predict the rate at which plastics enter our waters will rise by around 2.6 times by 2040.

Describing the plastic detritus on the surface of our seas as ‘a growing plastic smog’, the researcher­s said that waste had been entering the ocean at a growing rate since 2005.

The surge could reflect the global growth of plastic production or changes in waste generation and management. A lot of waste is shipped from developed countries and ends up in the sea after being

‘This is a stark warning’

‘mismanaged’ rather than recycled in developing countries.

The team from the 5 Gyres Institute studied ocean plastic pollution between 1979 and 2019. The data came from 11,777 stations across six marine regions where seawater was ‘trawled’. An estimate was calculated for the entire ocean area. The regions were the North Atlantic, South Atlantic, North Pacific, South Pacific, Indian and Mediterran­ean. Most of the data collected was from the North Pacific and North Atlantic.

Writing in the Journal PLOS One, the authors said they saw ‘no clear detectable trend until 1990, a fluctuatin­g but stagnant trend from then until 2005 and a rapid increase until the present’. They said the 2.3million tons figure was the average, but could even be as much as 4.9million tons. Marcus Eriksen, co-founder of the 5 Gyres Institute, said: ‘This is a stark warning that we must act now at a global scale.’

The Daily Mail’s Turn the Tide on Plastic campaign, launched in 2008, has led the way on plastic pollution and seen bans on microbeads and plastic straws.

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