9 Nov 2020 - WEF - There could be 14.4 million tonnes of microplastics at the bottom of the sea, new research says.
- The findings show there’s more than twice the amount of plastic on the seabed than on the water’s surface.
- Scientists made the estimate after examining an area off Australia’s south coast.
- The amount of microplastics in sediment is 25 times higher than previously thought.
- Experts say a circular economy for plastic is needed to address the issue.
Plastic pollution in the ocean could be an even bigger problem than first feared, with 14.4 million tonnes of microplastics estimated to be at the bottom of the sea.
The figure is more than double the amount of plastic thought to be on the ocean's surface, according to a team from Australia’s national science agency, the Commonwealth Industrial and Scientific Organisation (CSIRO).
The World Economic Forum-backed initiative Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP) estimates that 8 million tonnes of plastic waste leaks into the ocean each year. Its recent Annual Impact Report 2020 stressed the urgent need for collective action worldwide to create meaningful and sustainable change.
In addition to reduced plastics use, it says global solutions to address post-pandemic waste management challenges are needed. It cites the example of Indonesia, where business, government and civil society worked with GPAP to develop a plan to reduce the amount of plastic reaching the ocean by 70% within five years.
GPAP also says accelerated efforts to create a global circular economy are needed. This is echoed by the New Plastics Economy initiative, which calls for the elimination of all unnecessary plastics and further innovation to ensure those which are used are reusable, recyclable or compostable.
A circular economy – in which items are used, not used up – for plastic would keep the material in the wider economy and out of the environment. This, the initiative argues, would benefit the environment, society and the economy.
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