World’s ocean pollution reaches ‘unprecedented’ levels with over 171 trillion plastic particles

World’s ocean pollution reaches ‘unprecedented’ levels with over 171 trillion plastic particles

A team of international scientists analyzed global data collected between 1979 and 2019 from nearly 12,000 sampling points in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans and the Mediterranean Sea.

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Thursday, March 09, 2023, 04:17 PM IST
article-image

According to a new study, the world's oceans are polluted by more than 171 trillion pieces of plastic particles floating in the oceans. If gathered, the “plastic smog” would weigh around 2.3 million tons.

A team of international scientists analyzed global data collected between 1979 and 2019 from nearly 12,000 sampling points in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans and the Mediterranean Sea.

They found a “rapid and unprecedented” increase in ocean plastic pollution since 2005, according to the study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE.

"Today's global abundance is estimated at approximately 82-358 trillion plastic particles weighing 1.1-4.9 million tonnes. We observed no clear detectable trend until 1990, a fluctuating but stagnant trend from then until 2005, and a rapid increase until the present," the study, published on Wednesday in the journal PLOS one read.

Need for urgent policy

Scientists warned that without urgent policy action, the rate at which plastics enter the oceans could increase by around 2.6 times between now and 2040.

"This observed acceleration of plastic densities in the world's oceans also reported for beaches around the globe, demands urgent international policy interventions," they wrote.

Lisa Erdle, director of research and innovation at the 5 Gyres Institute and an author of the report, explained to CNN that only 9% of global plastics are recycled each year. She said that once plastic gets into the ocean, it doesn't decompose but instead tends to break down into tiny pieces. These particles are "really not easily cleaned up, we're stuck with them," she told the outlet.

Therefore, figuring out exactly how much plastic is in the ocean is a hard exercise. "The ocean is a complex place. There are lots of ocean currents, there are changes over time due to weather and due to conditions on the ground," Erdle said.

Highest concentration of plastic

It is impossible to figure out exactly how much plastic is in the ocean. “The ocean is a complex place. There are lots of ocean currents, there are changes over time due to weather and due to conditions on the ground,” Erdle said.

Though the researchers noted that the highest concentration of ocean plastic is currently in the North Atlantic, more data is still needed for areas including the Mediterranean Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the South Atlantic and South Pacific.

"This research opened my eyes to how challenging plastic in the ocean is to measure and characterize and underscores the need for real solutions to the problem," Win Cowger, a research scientist at Moore Institute for Plastic Pollution Research in California and a study author, said in a statement.

Changing level of pollution

The study also noted that the changing levels of pollution before 2000 may have been due to the effectiveness of treaties or policies that govern pollution. In the 1980s, several legally-binding international agreements mandated countries to stop discarding fishing and naval plastics in the oceans, as well as to clean up certain amounts.

According to the study, these agreements and policies may have been less effective and could explain the rise in plastics from around 2000 onwards.

Hence, the authors have argued that solutions must focus on reducing the amount of plastic produced and used, rather than cleaning up oceans and recycling plastics because this is less likely to stop the flow of pollution.

RECENT STORIES

Video: 'Spider-Man' Helps Elderly Woman Cross Busy Road In Jaipur; Netizens React 'Ye Hui Na...

Video: 'Spider-Man' Helps Elderly Woman Cross Busy Road In Jaipur; Netizens React 'Ye Hui Na...

Funniest Thing On Internet Today: Student Draws Heart Diagram, Labels Parts Of Organ With Girl Names...

Funniest Thing On Internet Today: Student Draws Heart Diagram, Labels Parts Of Organ With Girl Names...

Video Of Elderly Couple Singing 'Sawan Ka Mahina' From Farm Goes Viral For Soulful Rendition

Video Of Elderly Couple Singing 'Sawan Ka Mahina' From Farm Goes Viral For Soulful Rendition

Groom's Friends Enter Wedding Venue With Performance On 'Guladi Sadi', Video Goes Viral

Groom's Friends Enter Wedding Venue With Performance On 'Guladi Sadi', Video Goes Viral

Caught On CCTV: Hospital Staff Hits Elderly Bed-Ridden Patient In His Stomach; Netizens Demand...

Caught On CCTV: Hospital Staff Hits Elderly Bed-Ridden Patient In His Stomach; Netizens Demand...