Energy & Environment

Study shows ‘a growing plastic smog’ in the ocean of 171 trillion particles

Microplastics on a beach.
The Associated Press/ Andrew Selsky
Microplastics are photographed in 2020 at a beach in Depoe Bay, Oregon.

A new study reports there is as “growing plastic smog” of more than 170 trillion particles floating in the world’s oceans.

The research article, published in the journal PLOS ONE on Wednesday, found there has been a “rapid increase” of plastic particles in the world’s oceans since 2005. Researchers used surface water data from 11,777 stations from 1979 to 2019 to estimate the number of plastic particles in the water over time to determine whether current anti-pollution polices are effective.

The researchers estimated that there were about 1.1 million to 4.9 million tons of plastic particles floating in the ocean in 2019. The study suggested that increased production of plastic and waste, coupled with low rates of recycling, may have contributed to the “dramatic increase.”

“As global awareness, science, and policy interventions for plastic escalate, institutions around the world are seeking preventative strategies,” the study reads. “Central to this is the need for precise global time series of plastic pollution with which we can assess whether implemented policies are effective, but at present we lack these data.”

Researchers included a historical overview of global policy measure that were aimed to reduce plastic pollution in the ocean. Based on their analysis, the researchers are calling for “urgent and effective solutions” to combat ocean pollution.

Without intervention, the researchers warned that the amount of plastic particles could increase 2.6 times by 2040.

“Environmental recovery of plastic has limited merit, so solution strategies must address those systems that restrict emissions of plastic pollution in the first place,” the study states. “Therefore, establishing standardized monitoring frameworks to track global trends and creating binding and enforceable international agreements to prevent the emissions of plastic pollution are the best long-term global solutions.”

Tags Ocean Pollution plastic pollution Plastic waste pollution

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