How Much Pollution Is In The Ocean Each Year – Founded in 2005 as an Ohio-based environmental newspaper, a digital platform dedicated to publishing quality, science-based content about environmental issues, causes and solutions.

Ocean-bound plastic is plastic waste that finds its way into our oceans. The term “ocean-bound plastic” was coined by Jenna Jambeck, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Georgia. In 2015, he and a team of researchers estimated the amount of plastic waste entering the oceans from land.

How Much Pollution Is In The Ocean Each Year

Disposing of ocean-bound plastic is an important factor in ocean conservation. About 80% of the plastic in the ocean can be recycled into ocean-bound plastic. Plastics that come close to bodies of water such as rivers are at risk of ending up in the ocean. Other plastics can end up in the ocean through sewage systems or storms.

Researchers Help Miami Fight Plastic Pollution

For example, in 2011, after the 2011 tsunami and earthquake in Japan, approximately 5 million tons of garbage ended up in the ocean. Some of the debris sank, while others ended up on the West Coast of the United States. In addition, litter and plastics come from ships or offshore platforms. However, decades ago, countries dumped their waste directly into the sea. In the United States, this was made illegal by the Ocean Dumping Act of 1988.

Plastic waste is a huge threat to our planet, and diverting ocean-bound plastic is a better way for us to help the environment.

Fish swim around a plastic sheet and a bottle at the Samandag Sevlik Akkai diving site on the coast of Samandag, near the Turkey-Syria border, in Hatay province, Turkey, on December 6, 2018. Sebnem Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Each year, despite conservation efforts, 8 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans, out of the 150 million tons already in the marine environment. According to Smithsonian, as of 2016, we produce approximately 335 million tons of plastic annually. Half of this plastic is single-use. Only about 9% of the plastic we use globally is properly recycled.

Tide Turns Against Plastic Ocean Pollution

To create a mental picture of how much plastic ends up in our oceans, imagine a garbage truck the size of New York City putting trash into the ocean every minute of every minute of the year. If that doesn’t scare you enough, the amount of plastic produced and consumed is set to double over the next decade. If nothing is done to address plastic consumption, there could be more than 250 million tons of plastic in our oceans within a decade.

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Even if you don’t live on the beach, the plastic you throw away still ends up in the ocean. According to the World Wildlife Fund, plastic ends up in the ocean when it’s thrown away instead of recycled, when it’s littered on land, and the products we use are flushed down the drain or down the toilet. Additionally, cosmetics or cleaning products containing parabens or microplastic beads can be washed into the ocean.

Plastic is not biodegradable, it does not decompose. Most plastics are made for one-time use and then thrown away. They are known as disposable plastics.

During the 2017 International Coastal Cleanup, the top categories of plastics collected included packaging, bottles, grocery bags, take-out containers and the popular plastic straws. These plastics and others are what scientists call “microplastics.” According to the National Oceanic Service, microplastics are “multiple pieces of plastic that can be found in a variety of sands on beaches or oceans.”

New Science Paper Calculates Magnitude Of Plastic Waste Going Into The Ocean

About 12% of plastic is incinerated – 80% ends up in landfills. A 2014 study found that there are 244,000 tons of plastic floating in our oceans. Of the 244,000 tons found in the ocean, about 79,000 tons can be found in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is twice the size of Texas.

Reducing our individual plastic footprint is important. However, most plastic pollution comes from large corporations. Companies need to address production processes, waste management, and how their operations impact the environment. Big companies mass-produce disposable plastics by shifting the burden of sustainable disposal onto consumers.

According to, brands that contribute large amounts of plastic waste include Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle, Unilever and Colgate-Palmolive. The soft drink industry in particular generates tons of plastic waste. In 2016, Coca-Cola produced more than 110 billion single-use plastic bottles.

Plastic floating around and polluting the oceans only scratches the surface of the problems it causes—it affects all marine life, people, and the planet’s climate.

Where Does The Plastic In Our Oceans Come From?

Animals are exposed to the plastics we use and dispose of. Ocean plastic has already affected 267 species and 86% of sea turtles. They can suffocate, drown or get stuck in plastic and even swallow it. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, some species such as birds, fish, turtles and whales can mistake plastic for prey. When marine life consumes plastic, they starve to death because their stomachs are full of plastic debris. Marine life can be cut by plastic and can also receive internal injuries. Seabirds are known to feed on the sea surface, where they may ingest floating plastic debris. Adult seabirds go to feed their young, and their chicks feed on this plastic: a 1997 study by Albatross Biology and Conservation found that 98 percent of the chicks sampled contained plastic, an increase in plastic. Time.

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In addition, plastic debris promotes the spread of invasive species and further damages marine ecosystems. Floating plastics are carried into the ocean by ocean currents.

Plastic debris not only harms ocean wildlife, it also affects the human food chain. Microscopic plastic has been found in a variety of foods and beverages, including water, beer and salt. During the 2008 Pacific Gyre expedition, fish were found to be eating plastic waste. Algalita researchers caught 672 fish, and 35% had ingested plastic fragments.

“Plastic pollution is not just an ocean problem,” said Claire Arkin, communications coordinator for the Global Incinerators Coalition, in a report released by the Yale Climate Connection. It’s a climate issue, it’s a human health issue.”

Human Health And Ocean Pollution

According to the World Economic Forum, by 2019, between 4% and 8% of global oil consumption will be associated with plastic. If this continues, by 2050, plastic will account for 20% of oil consumption. As a petroleum product, plastics are inextricably linked to the fossil fuel industry: extracting and transporting fossil fuels releases carbon into the atmosphere, further contributing to global warming. Additionally, when plastic waste is incinerated, the process releases more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

This rare and critically endangered Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) has become entangled in a “ghost net” of discarded fishing nets. Placebo365/iStock Unpublished/Getty Images

Most of the plastic entering the oceans comes from human consumption. Companies that use plastic packaging and oil companies are part of the problem when plastic piles up in our oceans. Single litter of plastic is another contributor, as well as improper disposal or accidental disposal of fishing gear in the ocean.

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According to, fishing gear is the largest contributor to ocean plastic pollution. Commercial fishing gear such as nets, lines, pots and traps are thrown into the sea. The lost gear weighs the same as a 55,000 double-decker bus, The Guardian reported.

How Much Trash Is In Our Oceans?

Abandoned fishing gear, also known as “ghost gear,” has the potential to engulf marine life. In 2015, an 80-foot blue whale was caught on an abandoned fishing line. Lost fishing gear not only makes up a significant portion of all marine plastics at around 10%, but is also the most lethal to marine life, including corals, sessile animals and plants.

Abandoned gillnets nearly destroyed Wakuta Harbor in the Gulf of California and the upper Gulf of Mexico. About 10 wakuta ports left.

In addition to environmental impacts, ghost equipment has a negative economic impact. Some studies estimate that up to 90% of species caught in discarded gear have commercial value.

Although the statistics seem to prevent overfishing, there are ways to prevent overfishing from harming marine life.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Hosts Life In The Open Ocean

One way to prevent ghost gear from entering our oceans is through recycling. Fishermen no longer have to return useful traps and nets to harbor, rather than discarding the material into the ocean. There are ports in Massachusetts, Oregon, and Rhode Island that offer recycling programs. More recycling facilities in ports could help reduce fishing gear litter.

The use of biodegradable fishing nets is increasing. According to a study published in Animal Conservation, there are encouraging trials showing the usability and effectiveness of biodegradable nets. Nets made of polybutylene and polybutylene terephthalate conjugated nets have shown promising results compared to traditional fishing nets. Research shows that these biodegradable nets begin to decompose after two years.

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