How Much Plastic Waste Ends up in Oceans

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Our Thursday green news brings you the latest on green architecture, climate change, energy and communities:

plastic waste, ocean health

Photo courtesy of Bo Eide via Flickr

  • How much plastic waste ends up in oceans: According to a last year’s study called Valuing Plastic by the Plastic Disclosure Project and Trucost, plastic waste causes an estimated $13 billion in damages to marine ecosystems each year. It’s been an ongoing challenge for scientists to keep track of all that plastic, including plastic bags, bottles, debris to tiny microbeads of plastic broken down from larger sources. Now a new study called Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean, recently published in the journal Science, estimated that plastic debris washing into the oceans from 192 coastal countries reached somewhere between 4.8 and 12.7 million metric tons in 2010. Based on the data the study used, such as solid waste, population density and economic status, it was calculated that these countries produced a total of 275 metric tons of plastic waste. As the study authors explained: “Population size and the quality of waste management systems largely determine which countries contribute the greatest mass of uncaptured waste available to become plastic marine debris. Without waste management infrastructure improvements, the cumulative quantity of plastic waste available to enter the ocean from land is predicted to increase by an order of magnitude by 2025.” The researchers are projecting that by year 2025 the amount of plastic could reach 155 metric tons annually, unless we significantly improve waste management techniques.
  • How Pepsi Co. rethinks recycling: According to a 2013 Beverage Digest study, there are more than 5.7 billion pounds of PET bottles on store shelves each year, however only about 31 percent of those end up in the recycling system. Based on data from the American Beverage Association, the national beverage container recycling rate is at 42 percent now. These data sources suggest that more than half of the U.S. population is not participating in recycling at all, while a recent national survey conducted by The Omnibus Company for PepsiCo revealed that a majority of Americans rate recycling as the No. 1 activity they can do to help the environment. PepsiCo is currently on a mission to increase the U.S. beverage recycling rate to 50 percent by 2018. This ambitious goal is highly dependent on help from other parties, and to have a lasting impact, recycling needs to be addressed from every angle including logistics, infrastructure, industry collaboration as well as consumer involvement. Accessibility is the first step, PepsiCo explains: “We’ve committed to working with retailers to put more recycling bins in busy locations, such as gas stations and convenience stores, where there aren’t currently recycling containers. We also support the Closed Loop Fund in its mission to help provide recycling to communities that cannot afford to put the infrastructure in place.” Second step is to make that action meaningful to consumers. Therefore PepsiCo and The Nature Conservancy forged a new initiative to Recycle for Nature. By recycling any plastic bottle or aluminum can, consumers are directly supporting The Nature Conservancy’s efforts to save and restore 1 billion gallons of water over the next five years.
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