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Eight Million Tons of Plastic Dumped in

Ocean Every Year


Scientists have come up with a new way to measure ocean trashand the
numbers are even worse than thought. In 2010, eight million tons of plastic trash
ended up in the ocean from coastal countriesfar more than the total that has been
measured floating on the surface in the ocean's "garbage patches." That's the bad
news. The even worse news is that the tonnage is on target to increase tenfold in the
next decade unless the world finds a way to improve how garbage is collected and
managed. The findings are part of a groundbreaking study published Thursday in
Science that for the first time quantifies how much garbage flows into the world's
oceans every year. Until now, most efforts to measure ocean debris have involved
sample counts of plastic floating on the surface in large garbage patches in each of the
world's oceans. A study last year, for example, estimated the amount of floating trash
to be 245,000 tons at most.
Worst Offenders
The new study also identifies the major sources of plastic debris and names
the top 20 countries generating the greatest amount of ocean-bound trash. China is
first. The United States is 20th. The rest of the list includes 11 other Asian countries,
Turkey, five African countries, and Brazil. Even though the United States has a highly
developed garbage collection system, it nevertheless made the top 20 for two reasons:
It has a large, dense coastal population and, as a wealthy nation, is a large consumer
of products. (See video: "Are You Eating Plastic for Dinner?") "What we have done is
look at the other side of the equationwhat's coming out of the faucet, rather than
what's already in the bathtub," says Kara Lavender Law, an oceanographer at the Sea
Education Association in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and a co-author of the report.
"The size of the discrepancy is huge20 to 2,000 times more than the range of
estimates of floating debris. That is pretty shocking, especially when you consider that
the amount going into the ocean in a single year and what we're counting in the
oceans has been going in for 50 years."
To make the figure eight million tons comprehensible, Jenna Jambeck, the
University of Georgia environmental engineer who led the study, likens it to lining up
five grocery bags of trash on every foot of coastline around the globe. "And by 2025,
those five grocery bags of plastic are going to be ten bags," she says. That would be
155 million tons a year if present garbage management practices remain the same.
Plastic, Plastic Everywhere
Jambeck and her team combined population and economic data from 192
coastal countries bordering the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans in addition to the
Black and Mediterranean Seas. They found that these countries created 275 million
tons of garbage annually, of which 4.8 to 12.7 million tons of plastic flowed into the
oceans. That's only 2 to 5 percent of the total waste created in those countries. The use

of plastics for consumer products has become increasingly dominant, and production
has steadily increased since the material was first put into wide use a half century ago.
In 2012, for example, 288 million tons of plastic were manufactured globally.
Ocean plastic has turned up literally everywhere. It has been found in the deep
sea and buried in Arctic ice. It has been ingested with dire consequences by some 700
species of marine wildlife. The pioneering study also creates a new mystery. Because
the gap between what is found floating and what flows into the ocean is so large,
scientists now have to figure out where else it collects and in what amounts.
Link: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/02/150212-ocean-debrisplastic-garbage-patches-science/

SUMMARY
New Study Shows Plastic in Oceans Is on the Rise
Scientists have come up with a new way to measure ocean trash-and the
numbers are even worse than thought. In 2010, eight million tons of plastic trash
ended up in the ocean from coastal countries-far more than the total that has been
measured floating on the surface in the ocean's "Garbage patches." The even worse
news is that the tonnage is on target to increase tenfold in the next decade unless the
world finds a way to improve how garbage is collected and managed.
The findings are part of a groundbreaking study published Thursday in
Science that for the first time quantifies how much garbage flows into the world's
oceans every year. Until now, most efforts to measure ocean debris have involved
sample counts of plastic floating on the surface in large garbage patches in each of the
world's oceans. A study last year, for example, estimated the amount of floating trash
to be 245,000 tons at most. The new study also identifies the major sources of plastic
debris and names the top 20 countries generating the greatest amount of ocean-bound
trash.
Even though the United States has a highly developed garbage collection
system, it nevertheless made the top 20 for two reasons: It has a large, dense coastal
population and, as a wealthy nation, is a large consumer of products. "The size of the
discrepancy is huge-20 to 2,000 times more than the range of estimates of floating
debris. That is pretty shocking, especially when you consider that the amount going
into the ocean in a single year and what we're counting in the oceans has been going
in for 50 years." To make the figure eight million tons comprehensible, Jenna
Jambeck, the University of Georgia environmental engineer who led the study, likens
it to lining up five grocery bags of trash on every foot of coastline around the globe.
Jambeck and her team combined population and economic data from 192
coastal countries bordering the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans in addition to the
Black and Mediterranean Seas. In 2012, for example, 288 million tons of plastic were
manufactured globally. Because the gap between what is found floating and what
flows into the ocean is so large, scientists now have to figure out where else it collects
and in what amounts.