Plastic Pollution Projected to Significantly Worsen by 2040

By: Charles Xue

According to a new study in Science, the amount of plastic going into our oceans is projected to triple by 2040, and businesses' attempts to reduce plastic will be futile. To put that into perspective, the projected amount of plastic dumped into our oceans by 2040 is equivalent to having 50 kilograms of plastic waste for every meter of coastline.

The study states the reason for the increased consumption of plastic is that the general population is using more plastic per person, as well as an increasing use of non-recyclable plastics and increased use of plastics in countries with worse waste management.

The study’s authors, the nonprofit Pew Charitable Trust and sustainability consulting firm Systemiq Ltd., have called upon businesses and governments to do more to reduce the amount of plastic dumped into our oceans.

So far, governments have focused on banning a handful of plastics that are harmful to the environment such as plastic bags, plastic straws, and plastic stirrers. However, these bans have not accomplished much. Flexible plastic packaging, the kind of plastic usually used in chip bags and food pouches, are the most harmful, seeing as they are not typically recycled.

Luckily, pressure from consumers and regulations have forced some of the world’s largest companies to switch to reusable or recyclable packaging. However, experts say this isn’t enough, because these companies focus on using recyclable plastic instead of eliminating the use of plastic.

According to a study published in 2015, China and Indonesia are the top sources of plastic being dumped into our oceans. Fortunately, China and Indonesia have strived to improve waste management. For example, they have banned imported plastics and other waste from countries such as the U.S.

The documentary “Blue Planet”, presented by British broadcaster David Attenborough, was the first source that brought lots of attention to the issue of Ocean plastics, showing how much ocean pollution harms birds and sea creatures.

One study states that more than 800 animal species are affected by plastic pollution.

According to the Pew-Systemiq study, the amount of plastic being dumped into our oceans could be reduced by 80% over the next 20 years, but it’s going to take a lot of work to make that happen.


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