Could the Ocean Hold More Plastic than Fish?

Global plastic production is escalating by 5% annually (Andrady & Neal 2009). The total production in 2015 was 322 million tons, which is about the same weight as 732 Yokohama Landmark Towers.

The amount of petroleum used for producing these 322 million tons of plastic is equivalent to approximately 6% of global oil consumption. This quantity is about the same as the annual expenditure on oil destined for aviation fuel in the world (Ellen MacArthur Foundation 2016).

The growth rate of world plastic production exceeds the rate of population growth, in other words, the plastic consumption per person is escalating (Andrady 2017).

If we keep increasing the production of plastics by 5 % every year (Andrady & Neal 2009), production will reach a total of 33 billion tons by 2050 (Rochman et al. 2013).

The more we produce plastics, the more we discard them. Some of them end up in the sea. About 10% of all plastics ever produced have already flowed into the ocean (Thompson 2006).

An estimated 8 million tons of plastic waste enter the sea annually (Jambeck et al. 2015). That’s approximately the equivalent of 18 Yokohama Landmark Towers being dumped into the sea every year.

It is expected that by 2050, the total volume of accumulated plastics in the ocean will be greater than that of fish (World Economic Forum 2016).

An estimate of the total weight of fish in the world’s ocean is between 800 million and 2 billion (Wilson et al. 2009). By 2050, if 10% of the total produced plastics has been discarded into the sea (Thompson 2006), the amount would be 3.3 billion tons, which would indeed outweigh the fish.

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