A new study of the world’s oceans has found that more plastic waste is getting into the sea and harming plant and animal life. CCTV America’s May Lee reported the story from Los Angeles.
According to a first of its kind study of the world’s floating plastic by the 5Gyres Institute, five trillion pieces of plastic weighing nearly 270,000 tons now litter the world’s oceans.
While massive amounts of ocean litter collect at the convergence points of the world’s five major rotating currents, that’s just the tip of the garbage pile. The ocean’s powerful currents and waves also quickly shred plastic into smaller pieces, known as “microplastics” that spread far and wide.
“When I got to the middle of the ocean, I remember opening a fish, and finding small micro-plastics in its gut,” Marcus Erikson, co-founder of the 5Gyres Institute, said. “I realized at that moment that there’s no place in the world you can go and find an organic fish today.”
Report finds 270,000 tons of plastic waste litter the world’s oceansA new study of the world’s oceans has found that more plastic waste is getting into the sea and harming plant and animal life. CCTV America’s May Lee reported the story from Los Angeles.
Erickson said sweeping up the ocean’s garbage will not be enough to solve the problem.
“I don’t advocate people going into the ocean and scooping up trash,” Erickson said, and instead proposed better recycling systems, better products, and more enforcement of litter laws. “It becomes micro-plastics so fast. It becomes this cloud of trash that’s going to sink to the ocean floor rather quickly. If we can stop adding more to the ocean, the ocean will fix itself.”
Although recycling plastics is increasing around the world, the rates vary by country. Japan is by far the most successful with nearly 80 percent of its plastic waste recycled every year, while the U.S. recycles just 9 percent.
The U.S. also does not recycle much of its plastic waste within the United States. Like many countries, the U.S. mainly recycles plastic waste in China and India where it’s cheaper.
Seventy percent of the world’s 500 million tons of electronic waste and 12 million tons of plastic are shipped to China alone. Last year, Beijing imposed the “Green Fence”, policy that limits plastic imports.
Waste management entrepreneurs see this as an opportunity to promote recycling at home.
Mike Biddle of plastics recycling company MBA Polymers, has developed break-through technologies to recycle electronic and auto waste into high quality plastic pellets. The company has factories in the U.K., China, and Austria.
“So now, instead of your stuff sitting on a hillside in a developing country or literally going up in smoke, you can find your old stuff back on your desk in new products, in your office, or back at work in your home,” Biddle said.
Visualizing 270,000 tons of waste
Just how heavy is 270,000 tons? To help us all understand the weight of the problem, the CCTV America Digital Media researched a few comparisons to better visualize what roughly a quarter trillion tons could look like.
If you measured plastic waste by whales….
An adult killer whale (or orca) can weigh up to six tons. That would be 45,000 killer whales worth of plastic waste.
If you measured plastic waste by elephants….
An adult African elephant can weigh up to 14,000 lbs. (about seven tons). That would be 38,571 African elephants worth of plastic waste.
If you measured plastic waste by dinosaurs…..
The Argentinosaurus was believed to weigh about 75 tons. That would be about 3,600 Argentinosauruses worth of plastic waste.