How much plastic waste is entering our oceans? What are the effects? And what should we do about it?
While marine plastics are widely documented in the scientific community, there have been no studies that quantify this global volume of plastics entering the oceans and the potential implications. Until now.
A new paper published by the journal Science, and co-authored by Bren associate professor Roland Geyer, has attempted to tackle these questions. The UCSB Current covered the publication of the paper: “The research was conducted by a scientific working group at UC Santa Barbara’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) with support from the Washington, D.C.-based Ocean Conservancy.” The research team brought together experts in environmental engineering, oceanography, as well as waste management and plastics materials science.
“The study found that more than 4.8 million metric tons of plastic waste enter the oceans from land each year, and that figure may be as high as 12.7 million metric tons. That’s one to three orders of magnitude greater than the total reported mass of plastic floating in the oceans”.
While attempting to quantify the input of plastic waste from land into the ocean, the study also “offers a roadmap for developing ocean-scale solutions to the problem of plastic marine pollution. “Large-scale removal of plastic marine debris is not going to be cost-effective and quite likely simply unfeasible,” said Geyer. “This means that we need to prevent plastic from entering the oceans in the first place through better waste management, more reuse and recycling, better product design and material substitution.”