Analysis Shows We’ve Been Overestimating the Amount of Plastic in Oceans by 30x

in Enviroment 305 views

Scientists in the Netherlands have shown quite convincingly that the issue of plastic pollution in our oceans is far smaller than anyone believed.

Their research highlights a variety of good news tidbits: the first one being that abstract scientific modeling can be more than just wrong, but completely wrong, and the second is that organizations pulling trash out of the oceans and rivers today aren’t simply mowing a golf course with nail clippers: they’re making a significant difference to these ecosystems.

According to the Netherlands Times reporting on the study, estimates for how much plastic has made it into the oceans over the last 20 years range from 50 million tons to 300 million tons, but the actual amount is likely somewhere around 3.2 million tons.

20,000 measurements described as “reliable” informed the calculations of oceanologist Mikeal Kaandorp and his team, with highlights being that rivers bring much less plastic into the oceans than previously thought, and that microplastics are a significantly smaller percentage of plastic waste.

The NL Times says that large models on the amount of plastic entering the oceans are based on how much plastic has been made, how much has been recycled, how much has been buried or incinerated, and how much is missing.

Based on these figures, environmental organizations reckon that 10 million tons end up in the oceans every year, most of which come via river systems. However, Kaandorp stresses that the unaccounted-for plastic has never been accounted for, and it’s wrong to simply assume that every piece ends up in the ocean.

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