Plastics entering the world’s oceans have surged by an “unprecedented” amount since 2005 and could nearly triple by 2040 if no further action is taken, according to research published on Wednesday.
An estimated 171 trillion plastic particles were afloat in the oceans by 2019, according to peer-reviewed research led by the 5 Gyres Institute, a US organisation that campaigns to reduce plastic pollution.
Marine plastic pollution could rise 2.6 fold by 2040 if legally binding global policies are not introduced, it predicted. The study looked at surface-level plastic pollution data from 11,777 ocean stations in six major marine regions covering the period from 1979 to 2019.
Microplastics are particularly hazardous to the oceans, not only contaminating water but also damaging the internal organs of marine animals, which mistake plastic for food.
Experts said the study showed that the level of marine plastic pollution in the oceans has been underestimated.