If we continue to dump plastic as we have done to date, the quantity floating on the surface could quadruple by the year 2050, and up to 231.6 million tonnes will have polluted the ocean as microplastics.
The picture is better if we stop releasing any plastic into the ocean from 2020. In that scenario, the volume of floating plastic would drop to 59% of its current levels. But the quantity of microplastics in the ocean would still more than double by 2050 as material already trapped in the environment degrades.
The problem will be with us for decades, the researchers write:
“Mitigating microplastic pollution in the global ocean requires two major components: (1) drastically reducing emissions of plastic pollution in the coming years and (2) actively engaging in removal operations of plastic waste from the marine environment to reduce further generation of secondary microplastics.
“Without proper handling and management of accumulated plastic waste, the legacy of the last 70 years of throw-away society will live on through the generation of ever smaller synthetic polymer fragments in soils, freshwater ecosystems and eventually the ocean.”
By: Mark Bruer