Quirks & Quarks

Drowning in Plastic

Research suggests approximately 8 million tons of plastic are entering the oceans every year.
Plastic debris washed up on the coastline of Haiti. (Timothy Townsend)
Plastic has been discovered in the most remote parts of the oceans, in undersea sediments and even frozen into Arctic ice. We also know that waste plastic is being accidentally ingested by sea animals, from marine mammals to seabirds to crustaceans, and not to their benefit.

But the staggering amount of plastic entering the oceans hasn't been well understood until this week, when a team led by Dr. Jenna Jambeck, a professor of environmental engineering at the University of Georgia, and her colleagues, worked it out.

Based on calculations for the amount of "mismanaged waste" in 192 countries around the world, they estimate that a staggering 8 million metric tons of plastic, in various forms, is finding its way into our oceans every year.

Related Links 

Paper in Science
- AAAS release
- University of Georgia release
- CBC News story