Plastic In The Sea Since the 1950s, when plastic was first used on a large scale in manufacturing industries, more and more plastic has found its way into our seas and oceans. The problem has now reached crisis proportions with five major gyres, or large accumulations of plastic debris that have today taken over around 40% of the Earth's ocean areas. The main problem is that plastic is not biodegradable which means that it can take thousands of years to break up. In the meantime it clusters in enormous islands of rubbish that have formed gigantic garbage heaps floating in our waters. This sea-borne plastic waste has become an even greater threat to our planet's future than global warming according to an article in the Independent newspaper in 2014. In fact the Guardian newspaper revealed in December 2014 that a recent international scientific study which was published in the PLOS One journal has shown that there are approximately 269,000 tonnes of plastic currently in our oceans which amounts to about 5 trillion pieces of plastic. What is worse is that the problem is worsening year on year with 2.3 billion pieces of plastic being emptied into the oceans around South California alone in just three days. In just one year it is estimated that 6.4 million tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans. Clearly these plastic refuse islands are detrimental not only to the environment but to our oceans' animal life. Apart from making our beaches and shorelines unattractive and debris strewn they are also responsible for illness and death among our wildlife. To date, 267 marine species have been affected by plastic in their marine habitats. Seabirds, ocean dwelling mammals and turtles can mistake rubbish for food and when it is ingested they are slowly poisoned or suffer internal blockages which eventually cause their death. Seabirds, dolphins and seals can become tangled in floating rubbish like multipack plastic can holders and packaging straps which causes them to be strangled, starve or suffocate. The problem arises from our disposable culture where products are designed to be discarded after use. The problem could be reduced if we were more responsible about recycling used plastics and stopped using single use plastic bags for our shopping. Designers should ensure products are long lasting and durable rather than disposable and gutters should be covered by screens to prevent debris falling into sewers.
   How Much Plastic Is In The Sea? It is estimated that 271,000 tons of plastic are floating in the oceans. This is not much when you consider that each year 6.5 million tons of plastic goes into the sea at a rate of a ton every 5 seconds! How much plastic was dumped in the oceans in the past? Unfortunately, there are no exact figures available. assumes that the present percentage of the plastic produced that is entering the sea remains the same as it was in 1950. This is estimated at 2.16%, with 300 million tons of plastic produced annually and approximately 6.5 million tons of plastic waste entering the sea. From 1950 to February 2015 an estimated 5,800 million tons of plastic has been produced and if we assume that 2.16% of this entered the seas, there are over 125 million tons of plastic waste in the ocean, with most of it lying on the seabed. For the current values see the counter at the top right of the page. These figures are estimates and the counter could deviate by up to 50% each way but it shows very clearly the enormous littering of our oceans by plastic. The live counter shows the 206 kilos of plastic that enters the seas every second, which is equivalent to a 20 gram plastic bag every 8 days for every human on Earth.
Live counter showing the amount of plastic entering the seas in kilograms:
Total plastic in the world’s oceans in tons:
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