For Every Person on Earth, There Are 21,000 Pieces of Plastic in the Ocean
Author: Molly Taft
An analysis of global plastic data over the past four decades, published in the journal PLOS ONE, found that there’s now an estimated 170 trillion plastic particles — more than 2.2 million tons — floating in the world’s oceans. That number saw a sharp increase in the past 15 years, dovetailing, the researchers found, with ineffective global policies to reduce plastic waste. If we don’t act, the amount of plastic that’s there now could more than double by 2040. Click through for a view of what all that plastic actually looks like. The world’s plastic addiction is terrifying: plastic production has increased fourfold since the 1980s, and only 9% of that plastic is recycled, according to OECD data. Industries, including oil and gas, which saw a burgeoning new market for their product, are responsible for much of this increase and lack of solutions, as they worked behind the scenes to push policies that emphasised individual action rather than corporate responsibility. The new research, conducted by a group of scientists and organised by the 5 Gyres Institute, an environmental nonprofit, is an update of an initial analysis of plastic pollution published in 2014, which measured 5 trillion particles in the ocean. This update to that study analysed reams of data — some previously published, some new — from more than 11,000 samples to get a number on just how much trash is floating in the ocean.