Eight million tons of plastic end up every year in the oceans

A new study by researchers at the University of Georgia in the United States quantifies for the first time the amount of plastic waste dumped into the oceans. Far from being trivial, it is an important source of pollution for the environment and marine fauna, which could cause the choking of over 250 species!

A very worrying phenomenon

Bottles, totes, toys or other objects of any kind … Plastic waste is annually polluting the seas and oceans of the globe threatening marine ecosystems. This relatively recent phenomenon is extremely worrying, especially since it is not dwindling. On the contrary. A new study by the University of Georgia, USA, for the first time quantified the magnitude of the disaster. The verdict is final: measures are required or the quantity of plastic will increase tenfold in the next ten years.

Five bags of waste filled every 30 centimeters

“We will be overwhelmed by our own waste,” Jenna Jambeck, head of the study, said in a statement. Together with her colleagues, the biologist developed a computer model capable of estimating the amount of plastic debris released into the oceans from various sources, including coasts and boats. To do this, the model uses data collected from 192 coastal countries. This information relates both to the annual production of plastic waste and to the management system for these debris.
The results, published in the journal Science, lead to a disturbing record. They estimate that during 2010, these 192 countries produced 275 million tons of plastic waste of which 8 million tons ended up in the sea. A considerable amount. “Eight million tons is the equivalent of five supermarket bags full of plastic waste every 30 centimeters along the coast,” says Jambeck.
Pollution of plastic waste is not a pleasant topic to treat. Most people refute this phenomenon and turn a blind eye to what does not directly affect them. But to veil the face is not a solution

A waste treatment problem

“This amount is increasing every year, and our estimate for 2015 is about 9.1 million tonnes,” she said. At the heart of the problem is the treatment of waste. This has only recently begun to take shape, and the lack of initiatives and infrastructure in some countries is dangerously leading to the phenomenon of plastic pollution.
“The waste management system is most often the last infrastructure that is put in place. The treatment of wastewater and the supply of drinking water pass before, “she notes. However, this is a priority because plastic is a material which degrades very slowly and represents a major danger for marine organisms. When decomposed, waste forms small particles, agglomerating and constituting real plastic plates in the middle of the oceans. According to researchers, if nothing is done to improve waste management practices, their quantity in the oceans could reach 80 million tons by 2025.

By 2050, the oceans will contain more plastic than fish

A study published by the World Economic Forum in Davos alerts on the overconsumption of plastics. And for good reason: by 2050, there will be more plastic, by weight, than fish in the oceans of the globe.

The Davos study, entitled ” The New Plastics Economy, Rethinking the Future of Plastics “, examines the future of this material, which is widely used throughout the world Is not without consequences.

The report, based on interviews with 180 experts and the analysis of 200 reports, estimates that by 2050 the amount of plastic produced globally will be multiplied by three times to 1.124 million tonnes . Meanwhile, the “plastic economy” will swallow 15% of the annual global carbon budget (the budget to meet the target of a 2% decrease in global warming), compared to 1% today.

The scourge of plastic packaging

The use of plastic, a practical and inexpensive material, has multiplied by 20 over the last fifty years. And a quarter of this production concerns only packaging.

But only 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling. An extremely low rate compared to other materials: 58% for paper and up to 90% for iron. Worse, almost a third of all plastic packaging produced in the world land in a garbage can and end up in the wild.

“After a first brief cycle of use, 95% of the physical value of plastic packaging, between 80 and 120 billion dollars a year, are lost in the economy,” the report said.

For the Davos Forum, the only way to avoid a disaster is to considerably improve the economy of recycling. To this end, citizens must be encouraged not only to collect and sort plastic, but also to give priority to recyclable packaging. The other priority is to convince countries to improve their waste collection system. In France, the use of single-use plastic bags should be banned in March.

A disaster for the oceans

In March 2012, a sperm whale washed up on an Andalusian beach. In his stomach, he found 17 kilos of plastic made up of 59 different pieces, including: 30 square meters of plastic film from the neighboring industry, pieces of garden hoses, small flower pots, plastic bags, Hanger and small pieces of mattress The causes of death would be a perforation of the stomach and paradoxically starvation.

Plastic waste in the oceans is an increasingly serious threat and I want to give you an overview.

Plastic and its use

Nowadays plastic is omnipresent in the industry, conditioning of the building industry, automotive construction, medicine, leisure, high-tech, agriculture etc. The public’s enthusiasm is explained Especially by its properties such as low weight, acid resistance, and its flexibility. The origin of the word “plastic” comes from the Greek “plastikos” (ready to form) and “plastos” (well-formed). In addition, plastic production is cheap.

Synthetic plastics are derived from petroleum, natural gas and coal. They consist of molecular chains, called polymers. Refined petroleum (Naphta) is the most common raw material. The chemical connections are very stable and not biodegradable. The most common plastics are polyethylene, polypropylene, PVC, polystyrenes, PET and polyethers. Manufactured from liquid hydrocarbons, they account for about 80% of European plastic production. To this raw material will be added various additives (plasticizers, stabilizers, dyes, filling material, reinforcements, flame retardants or antistatic agents) to give it the desired properties. All of these additives are hazardous to health as they spread over time in the environment.

The growth of the plastic market dates back to 1950. At that time, about 1 million tons of plastic were produced in the world. Today, the figure is about 250 million tonnes each year. In 2005, this represented an annual consumption per inhabitant of 100 kg. In 2015, it will be 140 kg / year / inhabitant. The packaging is the first plastic thrown into the trash and accounts for 38% of the waste. As long as the plastic is not removed or recycled completely, it will pollute the environment because it is not biodegradable. In Europe, with properly structured collection, only ¼ of the plastics are recycled.

Plastic waste discarded nonchalantly is found in rivers and transported to the oceans. According to some estimates, 800 million tons of this waste enters the oceans and half would be plastics. Under the influence of waves, wind and UV rays, the waste decomposes in the sea into tiny fragments and is transported over very great distances with marine currents. That’s how it’s found in the Arctic and the Antarctic!

These marine currents convey this waste in subtropical convergence zones (Gyres in English), which causes huge accumulations! The seventh continent or “Great Pacific Garbage Pach” is an area located in the North Pacific with a high concentration of floating plastic waste. However, its name is misleading because it is floating plastics under the surface (cloud type) in the form of very small particles. In the middle of the North Pacific, some Hawaiian beaches are covered in rubbish and “Kamilo beach” on the southwestern tip of “Big Island” dubbed “Plastic beach” there is more waste than sand.

Consequences of pollution by plastics

Marine fauna is the one that suffers the most from this extreme pollution of the seas. Approximately 270 species are endangered. The animals hang in this waste and drown, strangle, starve themselves because they can no longer ingest food or mix. Sea lions and pinnipeds are the most affected by the snagging. 50% of these animals regularly become infected and their populations decline rapidly. Unfortunately, fishermen are losing or eliminating nets or traps at sea, and these instruments continue to capture while they are out of use. This phenomenon is called “Ghost Fishing” and many marine organisms are condemned, which in some areas represent another serious threat to fish populations.
For other animals, it is the ingestion that poses a serious problem because the latter confuse them with prey and actually swallow plastic! The hardest hit are turtles, birds and marine mammals. They are especially dangerous when they block the digestive system or that digestion has become impossible.
The animals die of hunger while the stomach is filled with plastic. The sperm whale failed in 2012 died for this reason. Each year, about 100,000 marine mammals die. In birds, the figure is 1 million because they confuse this waste with their food. This film will give you an idea of the problem of dimensions of plastic waste:  www.midwayfilm.com

Other marine animals as well as humans are victims of this pollution. Tiny particles dissolved in water are toxic. This is called polyphenol, bisphenol A (BPA), styrenic monomers or plasticizers (phthalates). The latter act on hormones and therefore on hormonal systems that are very sensitive. Absorbed by these different animals, toxins can spread in the food chain, accumulate and are ingested by humans. The dangers of these plasticizers are not clearly defined but they are suspected of negative impacts on the growth of children, infertility and cancer diseases in men.

Another danger of these particles is that they contain toxic agents such as DDT, DDE, PCB or other POPs (persistent organic pollutants) that also accumulate in the food chain. This is why whales are treated as “hazardous waste” in the event of stranding.

What do people do?

People must feel responsible and we must clean up the oceans. It is very difficult to implement large-scale clean-up actions because seas and oceans are considered public goods. So nobody feels responsible! This would entail high costs and appropriate infrastructure, while at the same time raising awareness of this ocean pollution, which is far too limited by many countries. They still have not applied the agreement for the elimination of plastic islands. However, it is urgent and necessary to find a solution so that no new plastic waste gets to the sea and is removed from the water:

These last two points are recorded in the international agreement MARPOL dating from the 1980s. It is clearly written that the vessels have the prohibition to eliminate their waste at sea. It is a global agreement ratified by 122 countries. Unfortunately, the waste situation has deteriorated. The main reason is a lack of correct control by the signatory countries and that, in addition, only 20% of the waste in the oceans comes from the ships 80% come from the continents. Consequently, even if MARPOL had been successful, too many wastes arrive in the seas from the land.

Cleaning of coasts and coasts is also very important. It is frustrating to find new waste but every action counts and can save the life of marine animals. The largest organization for this type of action is the ICC (International Coastal Cleanup), which coordinates with Ocean Conservancy. Since 1986 they have organized regular clean-up actions with the help of numerous volunteers in 132 countries.

We, the firm volunteers, were curious to know what we found on the beaches of Tarifa. In just two hours and on less than 200 meters, we filled 4 large garbage bags! You can find everything: bottles, bathtub, beach chair, used grills, shoes, fishing longlines with hooks etc. Here is an overview of this collection:

Between 10 and 30% of by-catches in fishing nets are plastic waste. Unfortunately, the space on board is often too small to carry waste ashore and there are no facilities in harbors for collection. In addition, treatment is usually chargeable! As a result, the waste is discharged overboard.

In Germany, NABU launched a project in 2011 “Fishing for Litter” where free waste treatment is made available in the ports. The environmental organization KIMO has since 2003 arranged a free infrastructure for the treatment of refuse in several European ports. A student named Boyan Slat, aged 19, is currently working on a project to clean the oceans. Its goal is to eliminate waste with floating screens placed at strategic points on the oceans to avoid mistakenly catching organic materials or species.

Then it would recycle the plastic. There are already solutions but they do not get much support so far. We should be aware of these dangers and behave differently: By simple gestures by reducing our plastic consumption find a reusable bag Use a reusable food box to take away its meals Cook with fresh ingredients and buy as few products as possible with a lot Packing .

Fighting against plastic pollution (petition)

For a 50% reduction in waste by 2020We call for a 50% reduction target for marine litter by 2020! Only this objective can significantly reduce the presence of these wastes and their impact on the environment . Its stake is imperative because it is about protecting this priceless resource that is our blue planet!

The States themselves have committed themselves to ensuring the good environmental status of the European marine environment by 2020 and five years before this deadline, much remains to be done.

Sign our petition to help us put pressure on the EU institutions  and Member States to get concrete measures and results against the scourge of waste in our seas and oceans.

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