Anyone who has taken a passing interest in the health of our planet’s oceans and shorelines will know that we have a serious problem with plastic. Thanks to our human addiction to quick and convenient items such as plastic bottles, bags, food packages, and single-use drinking straws – all of which end up finding their way to the seas in staggering numbers – around 700 marine species are being threatened with extinction due to ingestion, entanglement, and pollution. If marine ecosystems collapse – a scenario that some conservation experts fear could occur by 2048 – the consequences for the planet as a whole will be severe. Sharks, for example, could play a vital role in alleviating the effects of climate change by keeping the numbers of fish who consume the ocean’s carbon-storing vegetation down to a sustainable level. If a combination of overfishing and plastic pollution is allowed to wipe out the world’s marine animal populations, then the rest of us are … well, pretty much doomed.
Project MainStream, an initiative launched by Dame Ellen MacArthur in conjunction with the World Economic Forum, has just outlined the true severity of the situation in a groundbreaking new report called The New Plastics Economy. The report aims to assess the advantages and (extremely significant) drawbacks of the plastics production industry and explore how its negative impact could be improved. Among the alarming findings of this report were:
- 95 percent of plastic packaging (with an annual value of around $80–120 billion) is lost to the economy after its first use.
- Only 14 percent of plastic packaging is collected for recycling. When additional costs associated with sorting and reprocessing are factored in, only five percent of packaging is retained for subsequent use.
- Each year, at least 8.8 MILLION TONS of plastics leaked into the ocean: the equivalent of dumping the contents of one garbage trucks into the ocean every minute!
- Unless corrective action is taken, this figure is expected to increase to two trucks per minute by 2030, and four per minute by 2050.
- The oceans currently hold over 150 million tons of plastic waste.
- And finally … if the “business-as-usual” scenario is allowed to continue, the oceans will contain one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish by 2025, and MORE plastic than fish by 2050.
The picture below reveals exactly what kind of world we could all end up living in … unless we change our ways soon.
If we continue to dump plastic in our oceans at an unprecedented rate while continuing to empty fish stocks for our consumption, the photo above will become the reality for future generations. There are only a few countries that rely on fish as their primary source of protein, but developed countries like the U.S. account for the majority of fish imports. The fact is, we don’t need to be taking fish out of the oceans to meet our daily protein requirements anymore than we need to be using plastic straws and disposable plastic bags. Sadly, our appetite for fish and love for the convenience of plastic has lead us to this point – but that’s not to say that there is no turning back.
While the outlook presented to us in this new report appears to be indescribably bleak, we still have time to reverse some of the damage that has been done and save our oceans before it’s too late. The time to act is NOW. To find out how you can help, check out some of the articles below:
- 6 Ways You Can Help Save Our Oceans
- 10 Simple Actions That Just Might Save Our World’s Oceans From Plastic
- 5 Simple Go-To Tips to Shrink Your Plastic Footprint
- How to Ditch Single-Use Items and Reduce Your Impact on the Planet
- 10 Life Hacks to Help You Cut Plastic Out of the Picture
- 5 Innovative Ways to Use Unavoidable Plastics in Your Life
Let’s #CrushPlastic! Click the graphic below for more information.
Lead Image Source: Emilian Robert Vicol/Flickr