Oceans will contain more weight of plastics than fish by 2050

January 21, 2016 | Environment
Plastics: by 2050 oceans will contain more weight of plastics than fish | Photo: Bledowski/BigStockPhoto

A report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation concluded that by 2050 oceans will contain more weight plastics than fish.

"The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics" is the result of a three-year study of the powerful global plastic industry. In the next 20 years, the use of plastics will double.

Researchers believe that by 2050 the entire plastics industry will consume 20 percent of the world's oil production and 15 percent of the annual carbon budget.

"The current plastics economy has drawbacks that are becoming more apparent by the day. After a short first-use cycle, 95 percent of plastic packaging material value, or $80–120 billion annually, is lost to the economy," the report reveals.

"A staggering 32 percent of plastic packaging escapes collection systems, generating significant economic costs by reducing the productivity of vital natural systems such as the ocean and clogging urban infrastructure."

The panel of 180 specialists considers that the cost of all after-use variables is conservatively estimated at $40 billion annually - exceeding the plastic packaging industry's profit pool.

"More than 40 years after the launch of the first universal recycling symbol, only 14 percent of plastic packaging is collected for recycling," adds the study "The New Plastics Economy."

Drastic Measures

The authors of the document unveiled at the 2016 World Economic Forum believe nations should start creating an effective after-use plastics economy, drastically reduce the leakage of plastics into natural systems and other negative externalities, and decouple plastics from fossil feedstocks.

The measures should include:

  1. Radically increase the economics, quality, and uptake of recycling;
  2. Scale up the adoption of reusable packaging;
  3. Scale up the adoption of industrially compostable plastic packaging for targeted applications;
  4. Improve after-use collection, storage, and reprocessing infrastructure in high-leakage countries;
  5. Increase the economic attractiveness of keeping materials in the system;
  6. Steer innovation investment towards creating materials and formats that reduce the negative environmental impact of plastic packaging leakage;
  7. Scale up existing efforts to understand the potential impact of substances raising concerns and accelerate the development and application of safe alternatives;

The future is now. Ban plastics from your daily life. Learn how to reduce the use of plastics.