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Annual plastic waste could reach 53m tons by 2030

  • Published at 11:57 pm September 20th, 2020
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File photo: Plastic and other debris are seen on the shores of Cap Haitian beach, in Haiti on October 9, 2018 Reuters

In a new modelling study published in the journal Science, ecologists monitoring pollution in aquatic ecosystems have voiced their concern, saying more needs to be done to reduce emissions

As much as 53 million tons of plastic could end up in rivers, lakes and oceans every year by 2030, even if global commitments to reduce plastic pollution are met, experts have warned.

In a new modelling study published in the journal Science, ecologists monitoring pollution in aquatic ecosystems have voiced their concern, saying more needs to be done to reduce emissions, reports Evening Express.

Chelsea Rochman, an assistant professor in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Toronto, and senior author on the study, said: “Unless growth in plastic production and use is halted, a fundamental transformation of the plastic economy to a framework based on recycling is essential, where end-of-life plastic products are valued rather than becoming waste.”

According to the researchers, about 19 to 23 million tons, or 11%, of plastic waste generated globally in 2016 entered aquatic ecosystems.

They say computer modelling shows between 24 and 34 million tons of emissions are currently entering waterbodies around the world every year.

The researchers modelled future scenarios to include the strategies that are currently in place to reduce plastic pollution in waters, such as bans on certain plastic products, continuous clean-up of litter, and plastic waste management.

They found these mitigation strategies are not enough to keep plastic pollution in check, adding that an “enormous” amount of effort would be required to keep emissions below eight million tonnes a year.

This would include a 25%-40% reduction in plastic production across all economies, increasing the level of waste collection and management to at least 60% across all economies, and recovery of 40% of annual plastic emissions through clean-up efforts.

Plastics are slow to degrade, and even when they do, bits of them, known as microplastics, make their way into the aquatic food chain, and eventually into humans.

The “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” - an enormous raft of plastic waste floating in the sea is located between California and Hawaii and embodies the worsening crisis of global plastic pollution.

The patch is said to cover 1.6 million square kilometres, an area about 8 times the size of Wales.