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Surprise! Turns Out There’s More Garbage in the Ocean Than We Thought

2015 will bring 9 million metric tons of plastic into the ocean.

Surprise! Turns Out There’s More Garbage in the Ocean Than We Thought

Thought Garbage Island was depressing? According to a new report released by a group of oceanographers, engineers and other scientists, the amount of garbage in the ocean is so large that in 2010 it added up to the equivalent of five shopping bags crammed full of plastic bags per foot of coastline in existence.

Image by epSos.de on Flickr via Creative Commons


The study measured how much waste was produced annually by each inhabitant of the world’s 192 coastal countries, how much of that garbage was plastic, and the population density near the coast. Researchers also monitored waste management systems around the world to be able to estimate how much plastic made its way into the oceans. The answer, they concluded, was around 8 million metric tons in 2010. They predict that 2015 will bring 9 million metric tons more. By 2025? An additional 16 million metric tons of plastic in the ocean.

The top three offenders are China with 2.4 million tons (30 percent of the world’s total), Indonesia and the Phillipines. The United States, came in at number 20, the only wealthy industrialized country to make the top twenty.

“I think this is a wake-up call for how much waste we produce,” said University of Georgia environmental engineering professor Jenna Jambeck during the press conference.

While researchers advised that getting the plastic out of the ocean is basically impossible, they placed their hope in prevention.

“The most pressing need is to capture plastic waste to prevent it from entering the environment," said Kara Lavender Law, research professor of oceanography at the Sea Education Association. "This means investing in waste management infrastructure, especially in those countries with rapidly developing economies."

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