Study: Massive expected plastic pollution can be curbed
Currently available solutions could halt up to 80% of plastic pollution flowing into the ocean and the ground annually within 20 years, per a new analysis published in Science Thursday.
Threat level: Without urgent action, the yearly flow of plastics into the ocean globally is expected to nearly triple to 29 million tons by 2040 — and remain at that level for hundreds of years. Even under the best-case of curbing pollution, plastic's long degradation time means there'll still be a large amount, or roughly 710 million metric tons, of cumulative plastic pollution, researchers warn.
Details: The analysis, conducted by an international collaboration by Pew Charitable Trusts, SYSTEMIQ and others over two years, modeled six scenarios (including business-as-usual) that quantified the flow and amount of plastic in the global system and compared the quantity of pollution between 2016 and 2040.
What they found: The business-as-usual scenario showed global plastic pollution entering the environment by 2040 would reach roughly 80 metric tons per year.
Between the lines: "There is no silver bullet. None of the single-focus strategies for dealing with plastic pollution can get us really past where we are today," Lau says.
The bottom line: "By using the knowledge, approaches and technologies we have today, we can cut the amount of plastic going into the environment by 80% in 20 years," Lau says. "This is the surprise and hopeful finding from the report."