Is There More Plastic Than Fish In The Sea?

  • Virtually indestructible pieces of plastic foul a black rock beach on the island of Hawaii. Smaller pieces of plastic are often mistaken for food and ingested by marine birds, sea turtles, and fish and can kill the unsuspecting animals.

  • According to The New Plastics Economy report, the linear material flows of today's plastic packaging economy encourage a "take

  • The New Plastics Economy report's vision proposes a global restructuring of the plastics material flow that's aligned with the principles of the circular economy. This would include recycling, reuse, redesigning plastic products and assembly proce

  • To make such a huge systemic transition, some "moon-shot""-style innovations will be needed

  • The Ocean Cleanup proposes gigantic floating arrays to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. 100 kilometer-long floating barriers fixed to the sea floor by mooring stations will passively catch passing plastic debris as it moves on ocean curre

  • Last summer, The Ocean Cleanup completed its Mega Expedition to sample the concentration of plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch during the month-long voyage of nearly 30 vessels. The expedition, which The Ocean Cleanup says is the largest o

The amount of plastic in the ocean just keeps growing. If things don't change, by 2025 the oceans will contain one metric ton of plastic for every three metric tons of fish. By 2050 plastic will outweigh fish entirely. That's the conclusion of a report by two major foundations and research firm McKinsey & Company. Several proposals have been made for collecting all that plastic and reusing it, as well as for reducing the flow.

As we've told you , the damage caused by these materials to the world's oceans and wildlife continues, despite the fact that plastics manufacturers and processors have worked for several years to prevent or clean up plastic marine litter. In fact, plastic has become so integrated with naturally occurring materials in the oceans that it's formed a new geological substance. Found first on Hawaiian beaches, " plastiglomerate" combines plastic particles with rock fragments and beach sediment.

That's not really surprising, considering that at least 8 million metric tons (8,818,490 US tons) of plastic enter the oceans each year, according to the new study. That rate is expected to double by 2030, and double again by 2050. The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics was produced by the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, with analytical support from McKinsey & Company. According to its executive summary, the study brings a global perspective to the problem of plastic waste, focusing on plastic packaging. It provides "a new way of thinking about plastics as an effective global material flow, aligned with the principles of the circular economy." The study's vision of a global economy sees plastics as never becoming waste but being recaptured via recycling and reuse. It outlines specific, concrete steps that can be taken to achieve the systemic shift that's needed from the more linear material flows of today's plastic packaging economy.

In the current linear flow, which allows so much waste, after a short cycle of first use 95% of plastic packaging material value is lost to the economy: only 14% is recycled and 32% of plastic packaging material completely escapes collection systems. The new approach outlined in the study creates "effective after-use pathways for plastics; drastically reducing leakage of plastics into natural systems, in particular oceans; and decoupling plastics from fossil feedstocks." The shift will require all stakeholders to work together: plastic packaging producers, plastics manufacturers, consumer goods companies, and businesses involved in collecting, sorting, and reprocessing, as well as cities, policymakers, and NGOs (non-government organizations). Strategies include redesigning products for reuse and to make recycling easier; using more plastics that can be composted on an industrial scale; increasing the amount of renewable virgin feedstock; and phasing out plastics that are difficult to recycle, such as PVC and some forms of polystyrene.

April 22, 2016

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