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

That's 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 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. That's based on population trends and continued waste management disposal problems. 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, according to the study published in the journal Science. 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. And, there's a clean-up cost and it affects tourism.

Jambeck used World Bank statistics on 192 countries' waste streams to track and estimate plastic pollution from the source. She examined how much waste is generated and the percentage that reaches the oceans.

Jambeck's estimates were for 2010 and ranged between 5 and 14 million tons of plastic. The middle scenario estimate is 8.8 million tons.

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.

Last year Andrs Czar of the University of Cadiz in Spain estimated the waste at about 35,000 tons. Cozar said his team acknowledged that "99 percent of the ocean's plastic is missing."

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

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COMMENTS (98)
  • kevik-4
    3/05/2015 - 09:05 p.m.

    In this section it talks about all of the Plastic that is in the ocean. The united states and Europe only 1% of the plastic found in the ocean. The country that pollutes the most trash is china which is 28% of the planets total plastic. This professor is saying that about 99% of the oceans is missing. That is a lot of plastic in the ocean and that is not good for the marine life. I am kind of shocked about how much plastic is in the ocean and I will do my best to not add to that count.

  • AmandaM-1
    3/05/2015 - 09:15 p.m.

    It is estimated that 8.8 million tons of plastic is being dumped into our beautiful ocean each year. Researchers have noticed that some countries dump more litter into the ocean than others. Specifically China. China has dumped about 28 percent of the plastic of the 8.8 million tons. Thankfully the United States has dumped less than one percent wish is only 77,000 tons per year. The amount of plastic going into the water is about the same amount as the number of tuna fish that are fished each year. Basically we are replacing tuna fish with plastic. To make the situation even worse, the plastic and waste is being eaten by sea life. I can't imagine that would be good for them. I think this is terrible. The countries that are dumping plastic in our ocean should find somewhere else to put it because it's sad to hear this kind of bad news. Be eco friendly!!!

  • MiloW-4
    3/05/2015 - 10:07 p.m.

    most people don't realize that people dump 8.8 million tons of plastic ends up in the world oceans. This is a horrible result and that people need to fix it. The five countries that put the most plastic in our oceans are China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka. This is due to the amount of littering done in these five countries. China is responsible for 28 percent of the plastic that ends up in our ocean. The leader of this study says that people need to find out how much they are littering and make a change to it. This article is interesting because it is telling that the world needs to make a change and reduce the amount of plastic that is dumped in our oceans.

  • Eugene0808-YYCA
    3/05/2015 - 10:12 p.m.

    I did not know that we produced 8.8 million pounds of waste. I think we should do something about this. At this rate, we may soon litter the whole earth in the next 20 years. This is shocking because I did not know that humans produced that much trash. I did not know that at all because I have not been looking it up. It is obvious that we have to do something.
    Critical thinking challenge: Why do some countries contribute more trash to the oceans than others?
    Answer: Some countries contribute more trash to the oceans than others because they have industries that produce more trash than others and people litter a lot.

  • DylanM-4
    3/05/2015 - 11:26 p.m.

    A recent study has shown that humans have added hundreds of tons of trash into the ocean. The main countries that are contributing the trash are China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines. It is estimated that China contributes over 20% of the trash. Studies have shown that more trash is coming from developing nations, that have more litter, and less of a trash business. I think that first world countries like the U.S. should help set up sanitation in third world countries because trash in the oceans affect us all.

  • ksadat-5
    3/05/2015 - 11:29 p.m.

    This is terrible. Around eight point eight million tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean each year. China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka are the main contributors to this number and are hugely affecting the marine life and the water people drink. Just China alone produces two point four million tons of plastic a year that goes into the ocean. We are putting in so much plastic that we are actually putting in the amount of tuna we fish.

    This is terrible. I knew lots of plastic was going into the ocean, but I didn't know it was eight point eight million tons of plastic. I mean this is outrageous! China produces a quarter of that amount and they don't even care. All this marine life is getting affected: they lose their habitats, lose their prey, and lose their lives. This is shameful that we waste so much plastic and just throw it into the ocean. This is unacceptable and needs to change.

  • BeckettN-2
    3/05/2015 - 11:57 p.m.

    This article is abut the 8.8 million tons of plastic that end up in the ocean every year. Half of the worlds ocean plastic comes from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka, where as America only contributes less than 1%. I think its terrible that this kind of pollution is going on.

  • dylanswerdlow1
    3/06/2015 - 12:14 a.m.

    The article I read was about pollution in oceans worldwide. People dump about 8.8 million tons of plastic in oceans worldwide yearly. Scientists have estimated that by 2025 about 170 million tons of plastic/trash will be being dumped into oceans yearly. Marine biologists are saying this just horrible for the sea life and people. People need to make a change and find a different way to dispose all this trash. This article made want to start picking up after people and help prevent the pollution that goes into our oceans.

  • MGallagher
    3/06/2015 - 12:16 a.m.

    Each year about 8.8 million tons of plastic ends up in the world oceans. The amount is much higher than estimated. Scientists say that by 2025, the total accumulated plastic trash in the oceans will reach around 170 million tons. The estimates for 2010 ranged between 5 and 14 million tons of plastic.

  • vincentg-2
    3/06/2015 - 12:27 a.m.

    The amount of trash that NZ up in the ocean is terrible. Any trash that you throw into the Ocean can go on any current and go anywhere in the world some trash ends up in China but you throw in the water. And the fact that we dump 8,800,000 tons of trash into the water is terrible8,000,000 tons of trash is ruining the lives of many animals and fish creatures.

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