Ocean plastic is increasing by 4% per year and has lasted longer than expected

Analysis by German scientists found that 95% of the world’s initial total amount of oceanic floating plastic in 2020 was composed of plastic fragments larger than 2.5 centimeters, which may last longer than previously expected. The findings are based on a combination of observational data from 1980 to 2020 with a three-dimensional modeling of the ocean. The study was published Aug. 7 in Nature Earth Sciences.

In the past, it was estimated that there were about 250 million kilograms (250 kilotons) of plastic pollution on the global ocean surface, but the amount of plastic pollution entering the ocean each year is expected to be much larger than that. It is thought that this discrepancy may be due to an overestimation of the amount of plastic imported from land and rivers, unknown processes that removed most of this plastic from the ocean surface, or fragmentation and degradation.

To explore the reasons for this discrepancy, Mikael Kaandorp of the Jülich Research Center and colleagues incorporated global plastic pollution observations into a numerical model that tracks how plastic particles migrate and transform in the ocean. They estimate that there were 3,200 kilotons of floating plastic in the ocean in 2020. Of the 470-540 kilotonnes of plastic entering the ocean in 2020, about half came directly from fishing activities and the rest from coasts and rivers. They mentioned that 95% of floating plastics are larger than 2.5 centimeters, and microplastics account for only a small proportion.

The study shows that the total amount of plastic is higher but the input is lower than past estimates, indicating that some processes to remove ocean plastic have not been missed; Instead, they believe that because of the lifespan or long duration of these plastics, only 10% of plastics may degrade or sink within 2 years.

Researchers expect that floating plastic imports into the ocean are increasing at a rate of 4% per year, highlighting the need for urgent action to reduce ocean plastic pollution. (Source: Feng Weiwei, China Science News)

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Image courtesy of Pixabay

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