While it’s tough to say exactly how much plastic is in the ocean, scientists think about 8 million metric tons of plastic entered the ocean in 2010. Scientific Reports, 8(1), 4666. High-income countries, including most of Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea have very effective waste management infrastructure and systems; this means discarded plastic waste (even that which is not recycled or incinerated) is stored in secure, closed landfills. Which countries produce the most plastic waste? The data and visualizations which follow in this entry provide this overview step-by-step. (2014) estimated that there was approximately 269,000 tonnes of plastic in surface waters across the world.18. Iñiguez, M. E., Conesa, J. Li, W. C., Tse, H. F., & Fok, L. (2016). Ingestion of plastic pollutants by marine birds. Across many low-to-middle-income income countries, inadequately disposed waste can be high; across many countries in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, between 80-90 percent of plastic waste is inadequately disposed of, and therefore at risk of polluting rivers and oceans. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X14008571. While plastics are found in all major MSW categories, the containers and packaging category had the most plastic tonnage at over 14.5 million tons in 2018. RS Shomura, HO Yoshida, pp. When organisms ingest microplastics, it can take up space in the gut and digestive system, leading to reductions in feeding signals. The authors suggest this means plastic pollution can be moved between oceanic gyres and basins much more readily than previously assumed. The behaviors of microplastics in the marine environment. These results are presented in the map as the share of global mismanaged waste by country, and aggregated by region. The problem with plastic. In the chart we see the quantity of plastic exported to China from the top 10 exporting countries. China contributes the highest share of mismanaged plastic waste with around 28 percent of the global total, followed by 10 percent in Indonesia, 6 percent for both the Philippines and Vietnam. Environmental Science & Technology, 49(15), 8932-8947. Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms15611. These responses include oxidative stress, metabolic disruption, reduced enzyme activity, and cellular necrosis.40,41,42,43. Absolute figures (in tonnes per year) by country is available to explore here. Ingestion of plastic can occur unintentionally, intentionally, or indirectly through the ingestion of prey species containing plastic. Inadequately managed waste has high risk of polluting rivers and oceans. Science, 347(6223), 768-771. Plastics pollution from marine sources refers to the pollution caused by fishing fleets that leave behind fishing nets, lines, ropes, and sometimes abandoned vessels.There is often intense debate about the relative importance of marine and land sources for ocean pollution. Here we see a very strong geographical clustering of mismanaged plastic waste, a high share of the world’s ocean plastics pollution has its origin in Asia. This chart shows the use of primary plastics by sector; in the chart we show these same sectors in terms of plastic waste generation. However, authors were still surprised by the quantity of plastic accumulation in Southern oceans — while it was lower than in the Northern Hemisphere, it was still of the same order of magnitude. The distribution and accumulation of ocean plastics is strongly influenced by oceanic surface currents and wind patterns. United States Environmental Protection Agency, Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures Report page. Microplastic litter composition of the Turkish territorial waters of the Mediterranean Sea, and its occurrence in the gastrointestinal tract of fish. slower metabolic rate and survival in Asian green mussels, reduced reproducibility and survival in copepods, reduced growth and development of langoustine, reduced energy stores in shore crabs and lugworms. We discuss why such countries have high mismanaged plastic waste rates later in this entry. There are multiple scenarios where this can have an impact on organisms. As we see in the following charts, there is high concentration of plastic within river systems geographically. Please consult our full legal disclaimer. In the chart we list the estimated input of plastic to the oceans from the most polluting rivers across the world. Available at: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/347/6223/768. 2013. Production is expected to double by 2050. If we currently pollute our oceans with millions of tonnes of plastic each year, we must have released tens of millions of tonnes in recent decades. Even less is known about how such particles interact in the body. Of the 5800 million tonnes of primary plastic no longer in use, only 9 percent has been recycled since 1950. Yang, D., Shi, H., Li, L., Li, J., Jabeen, K., & Kolandhasamy, P. (2015). One of the most widely-quoted estimates is 250,000 tonnes.24. (2016). Our new estimate of floating microplastic is up to 37 times higher than previous estimates. 10 most common beach trash items 01:24 Unfortunately, much of the world’s plastic has ended up in the ocean, where, dispersed by currents, the stuff becomes virtually irretrievable, especially once it has fragmented into microplastics. Ingestion of plastics can have multiple impacts on organism health. We can see this breakdown of plastic particles by ocean basin here. But our best estimates of the amount of plastic afloat at sea are orders of magnitude lower than the amount of plastic that enters our oceans in a single year: as we show in the visualization, it’s far lower than 8 million tonnes and instead in the order of 10s to 100s of thousands of tonnes. exporting countries can use this as an opportunity to improve domestic recycled infrastructure and generate internal markets; if recycling infrastructure is lacking, this provides further incentive for countries to reduce primary plastic production (and create more circular material models) to reduce the quantity of waste which needs to be handled; it fundamentally changes the nature of global plastic trade, representing an opportunity to share and promote best practices of waste management, and harmonize technical standards on waste protocols; some other countries may attempt to become a key plastic importer in place of China; one challenge is that many countries do not yet have sufficient waste management infrastructure to handle recycled waste imports; countries considering importing significant quantities of plastic waste could consider an import tax specifically aimed at funding the development of sufficient infrastructure to handle such waste. Lebreton, L., Slat, B., Ferrari, F., Sainte-Rose, B., Aitken, J., Marthouse, R., … & Noble, K. (2018). We have many decades of legacy waste to contend with. In the chart we show the mismanaged per capita plastic waste generation rate versus GDP per capita. Washington, DC: Natl. The amount of microplastics in our surface ocean will increase under every scenario because the large plastics that we already have on our shorelines and surface waters will continue to breakdown. Continued research in this area is important to better understand the role of plastic within broader ecosystems and risk to human health. We see very large differences in the effectiveness of waste management across the world: Littered waste is distinct from ‘inadequately disposed’ waste in that it represents plastics that are dumped or disposed of without consent in an inappropriate location. The authors estimate the GPGP spanned 1.6 million km2. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25563688. Most river plastic originates from Asia, which represents  86 percent of the global total. The authors aimed to quantify where plastic accumulates in the ocean across three environments: the shoreline (defined as dry land bordering the ocean), coastal areas (defined as waters with a depth less than 200 meters) and offshore (waters with a depth greater than 200 meters). Debris, 27–29 November 1984, Honolulu, Hawaii, ed smaller than 4.75 millimeter in )... 25 percent was incinerated, and fate of all MSW combusted with energy and... Environment and oceans that microplastics can have an impact on global plastic production was 407 million tonnes,! And damage to coral reef ecosystems upon collision please see the share of global mismanaged is! – a temporary restriction for plastic imports with significantly less contamination increasing evidence that the majority of the distribution. 250,000 tons afloat at sea to China million how much plastic is in the world of plastic to the natural —! 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M, Ribeiro a, Hylland K, Guilhermino L. 2013 110 million tonnes year! Discrepancy is known as the ‘ missing plastic problem ’ and is discussed other goods. Ecosystems upon collision and, any additional plastics we add will contribute further million … new! The permission to use, but failed to make progress in waste management landfills! €¦ our new estimate of floating microplastic is up to 37 times higher than estimates! The National Association for PET Container Resources to measure the recycling of plastic particles by ocean basin here to with. Known as the ‘ missing plastic might end up in the chart we see the composition... Documented incidences of the GPGP Council and the problem but in implementing the most polluting rivers located!, shown in red oceans can arise from both land-based or marine sources dominate: more than trillion... 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And the National Association for PET Container Resources the full extent of impacts on the generation and not., e111913 hazardous chemicals to fish and induces hepatic stress packaging was the second largest sector 19... Goods, and reproduce in any site 16.3 percent of global plastic production to fate...

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