We dump 8.8 million tons of plastic into oceans Ar left, Jenna Jambeck, an environment engineering professor at the University of Georgia, holds a plastic baggie with trash collected last fall from a clean up at Panama Beach, Florida (AP photo / Thinkstock)
We dump 8.8 million tons of plastic into oceans
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There is a lot of trash in the world's oceans. Tons and tons of it.

Each year about 8.8 million tons of plastic ends up in the oceans. The quantity is much higher than previous estimates. That is according to a study. It tracked marine debris from its source.

The total amount is the equivalent of five grocery bags full of plastic debris dotting each foot of coastline around the world. So says the study's lead author, Jenna Jambeck. She is an environment engineering professor. She teaches at the University of Georgia.

At the current rate, Jambeck projects that by 2025, the total accumulated plastic trash in the oceans will reach around 170 million tons. But there may be some early signs of change, she said.

More than half of the plastic waste that flows into the oceans comes from just five countries. They are China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. The U.S. is ranked No. 20. Europe and the U.S. are not mismanaging their collected waste. The plastic trash coming from those countries is due to litter, researchers said.

China is responsible for 2.4 million tons of plastic that makes its way into the ocean. That's nearly 28 percent of the world total. The U.S. contributes 77,000 tons. That is less than 1 percent. This is mostly because developed countries have systems to trap and collect plastic waste, Jambeck said.

"We need to wake up and see our waste," Jambeck said. "I think the problem in some ways has sort of snuck up around us."

The amount of plastics estimated to be going into the water is equal to how much tuna is fished per year. So "we are taking out tuna and putting in plastic, said study co-author, Kara Lavendar Law.

Nancy Wallace is head of the marine debris program for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She said plastic waste in the water is eaten by sea life. It also collects ocean toxins. There's also a clean-up cost and it affects tourism.

Jambeck used World Bank statistics on 192 countries' waste streams. She examined how much waste is generated. And what percentage reaches the oceans.

Jambeck's estimates were for 2010. They ranged between 5 and 14 million tons of plastic. Previous estimates were less than 1 million tons, based on samples.

Scientists know that much can be hidden in the bottom of the ocean and in places researchers don't get to.

Critical thinking challenge: Why do some countries contribute more trash to the oceans than others?

Assigned 53 times


COMMENTS (47)
  • ANGRYMIDGET017
    3/06/2015 - 09:52 a.m.

    Because they need the plastic to make all of the commodities they sell to other countries

  • Tylerrrm
    3/06/2015 - 09:56 a.m.

    Maybe some countries do it because they don't have a better place to put it. So the ocean is there best option.

  • kims18
    3/06/2015 - 09:56 a.m.

    Some Countries use more trash than others. America uses Plastic for a lot of things, but maybe people in a third world Country don't use plastic and the burn their trash.

  • GrahamR
    3/06/2015 - 09:56 a.m.

    On average there is 8.8 million tons of plastic dumped into the ocean. That can be very bad for ocean life, surrounding cities, and tourism. The majority of this plastic comes from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. The US isn't to bad with taking care of plastic waste, they are ranked no. 20. Same with the UK they take care of their waste pretty well as well.

  • Dalton1999
    3/06/2015 - 09:56 a.m.

    Some countries contribute more trash because they dont have a plastic catchin rigg. illinois only contributes 77,000 tons. Thats because we have a plastic catcher rigg.

  • CourtneyMahone
    3/06/2015 - 09:56 a.m.

    Some countries contribute more trash to the oceans because they don't have the technology to keep it out and people probably don't care that all that trash is going into the oceans.

  • MiahP2018
    3/06/2015 - 09:57 a.m.

    Some countries contribute more trash to the ocean than others because some less developed countries don't have a proper system when it comes to waste. Luckily, the US has a fairly good system when it comes to waste, especially in comparison to other countries such as China.

  • 20ethan18
    3/06/2015 - 09:57 a.m.

    Some countries contribute more trash to the ocean more than others, probably because some countries have a higher population than others meening they have mor trash that they need to throw out.

  • SamNicole99
    3/06/2015 - 09:57 a.m.

    The countries that contribute more trash are probably more populated and less developed than the countries that contribute less trash.

  • Ashtyn44
    3/06/2015 - 09:57 a.m.

    Some countries contribute more trash to the oceans than others because more places have more trash that gets to the ocean more then others.

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