Summary: A new study says that about eight million tons of plastic material find their way into the oceans each year. To reach this number, scientists needed to quantify just how much of this material was being directly dumped, how much has blown in, and how much had simply washed out to sea. This amount of material is enough to cover an area the size of Manhattan island to a depth of around two inches. An even better visualization of this is to imagine five plastic shopping bags to every foot of coastline. Previous studies had mainly looked at the amount of plastic on beach and surface of the sea, but did not take into account the massive amounts that may lie on the ocean floor. Interestingly, this study went even further and included tiny particles of broken down plastic in the calculations. The group of scientists then created a model for the ways plastic enters the ecosystem. Their findings estimate a range between 4.8 and 12.7 million tons for the year of 2010. This model predicts that if left unchecked, 17.5 million tons of plastic per year could be entering the ocean by 2025.
Response: Maybe I shouldn’t be at this point, but I was surprised by the amount of waste that we as a society produce. According to the article, China of course, is the biggest contributor to plastic waste, and the U.S. is the 20th. Both of these are developed and responsible nations compared to the rest of the world. More and more people mean a demand for more and more plastics. The developed nations aren’t the only ones that contribute, however. Developing nations (though they might not produce nearly as much waste as the United States) lack suitable containment for their waste. As a result, it is dumped into the water and carried out of sight and mind. Either way, millions upon millions of tons of this material finds its way into the ocean every year. According to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, it takes 450 years for the average plastic bottle to biodegrade. Along the way, it harms the aquatic environment, kills fish, destroys plant life. It will soon begin to affect us more directly if nothing is done about it. At some point in the future either ourselves or our children will be faced with the consequences of our actions. What will we do about it?