Study Shocks The World; Over 170 Trillion Plastic Particles Found In Oceans

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The world’s oceans are awash with plastic, an increasingly hazardous contaminant that is causing damage to marine life and releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. But new research shows that the rate at which plastic accumulates in the seas could be 2.6 times higher by 2040 without urgent action to curb production and consumption.

Over a century of research has yet to quantify how much plastic floats in the oceans. Still, researchers from the 5 Gyres Institute in the United States have compiled a data set that can provide an understanding of the problem’s scale. The research was published in PLOS ONE and is the largest-ever survey of ocean plastic pollution.

Almost every nation on earth produces waste that ends up in the ocean, but it is Asian countries that are the worst offenders. According to the study, Thailand, Malaysia, China, and Indonesia are among the top five producers of plastic in the seas.

While these nations produce a significant amount of plastic, their recycling efforts still need to be improved. Consequently, the research finds that a significant amount of plastic that makes its way into the oceans is still discarded or dumped.

These pollutants can clog coastal and ocean-based habitats, preventing animals from thriving, or confuse fish for food. Scientists warn that they can also entangle marine life and cause toxic chemicals to leach into the water.

The researchers report that a global map of ocean plastic accumulation between 1979 and 2019 reveals a “rapid and unprecedented” increase in ocean plastic pollution since 2005. They analyzed records collected between 1979 and 2019 from nearly 12,000 sampling points in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans and the Mediterranean Sea.

They observed no clear detectable trend until 1990, a fluctuating but stagnant trend from then until 2005, and a rapid increase until the present. They say this could be due to increased production, the fragmentation of existing plastic pollution, changes in waste generation and management, or the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems.

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For the analysis, researchers used dragnet sampling, in which excellent mesh nets were dragged across the water’s surface to measure the average number of particles per kilometer. Then, they extrapolated these results to the global ocean to estimate how many plastic pieces are accumulating there.

Their analyses show that concentrations of microplastics – tiny pieces of plastic found outside products, such as bottles and bags – are highest close to continents and in significant ocean current systems. However, in offshore areas, there is a tendency for concentrations to be lower.

The findings suggest that there is a need for more research into the problem. They found that previous studies had focused primarily on northern-hemisphere oceans near the world’s most industrialized nations but that more information was needed for regions like the Mediterranean and Indian oceans.

James Williams

James Williams is a bestselling author and historian with a passion for storytelling. He has written numerous books on historical figures and events, including biographies of famous leaders and explorers. James is also a regular contributor to several historical publications and blogs. His ability to bring history to life has earned him critical acclaim and a loyal following of readers. When he's not writing, James enjoys traveling to historical sites and exploring new places.

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