A new research estimates the plastic going into the oceans

Waste reaching Kamilo Beach in the Hawaii
Waste reaching Kamilo Beach in the Hawaii

According to a study described in a paper published in the journal “Science”, between 4.8 and 12.7 million tons of plastic in the oceans were thrown in 2010 by people living within 50 kilometers from the coasts. During that year, a total of 275 million tons of plastic waste were generated in 192 coastal nations.

This research was conducted by a group of researchers at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis led by Jenna Jambeck, assistant professor of environmental engineering at the University of Georgia’s College of Engineering. The researchers looked at the debris entering the oceans from land, seas and other sources.

The aim was to create a model for each of the sources and after the first rough estimates what stood out was that poorly managed waste and dispersed solid waste were  the biggets contributions. Starting from those basis, the researchers focused on plastic.

Kara Lavender Law, a researcher professor at the Sea Education Association, based in Massachusetts, stated that for the first time they made an estimate of the amount of plastic that goes into the oceans in a certain year. This allowed to start creating a model to analyze the waste streams in the world nations to allow anyone to adapt them. It can also be used to support the creation of possible strategies to find a solution to the problem.

This isn’t the first research on the plastic in the oceans: a study published last year focused on five “islands” of plastic that accumulated in many areas of the oceans. The figures on the amount of plastic were also shocking and gave an idea of the problem’s seriousness but also of the fact that the measurements are approximate.

Professor Jenna Jambeck noted that the research she led gives a sense of what they need to find in the oceans to get to the total of plastic present. Her colleague Kara Lavender Law reminded of the progress of environmental technologies for recycling and waste management but they are not available worldwide.

The management of solid waste such as plastic often has a low priority but the long-term effects could be very negative. When plastic enters the food chain, it becomes a big problem for humans too. Say that we need further efforts in the management of these wastes both locally and globally is obvious but exactly for this reason there should be a greater awareness of a problem that is becoming more and more serious.

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