Plastic pollution in aquatic systems may triple by 2040: UNEP

What is the News?

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has released a report titled “From Pollution to Solution: a global assessment of marine litter and plastic pollution”.

What is the purpose of the report?

The report examines the magnitude and severity of marine litter and plastic pollution and reviews existing solutions and actions. 

What are the key findings of the report?
Recycling of Plastic Waste

Of the seven billion tonnes of plastic waste generated so far, an estimated 10% was recycled, 14% incinerated and the remaining 76% went into landfills, dumps and litter in the natural environment.

Growing Problem of Marine Plastic

The microbial community on plastic debris also known as the plastisphere now covers the multiple biomes on Earth.

Currently, the amount of plastics in the oceans has been estimated to be around 75-199 million tonnes at present. By 2040, it will nearly triple, adding 23-37 million metric tons of waste into the ocean per year. This means about 50 kg of plastic per meter of coastline. 

Because of this, all marine life faces the grave risk of toxification, behavioral disorder, starvation and suffocation. 

The human body is similarly vulnerable. Plastics are ingested through seafood, drinks and even common salt. They also penetrate the skin and are inhaled when suspended in the air.

Main Sources of Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution

The main sources of marine litter and plastic pollution are land-based. Approximately 7,000 million of the estimated 9,200 million tonnes of cumulative plastic production between 1950 and 2017 became plastic waste.

Impact of Plastic Waste on Climate

In 2015, greenhouse gas emissions from plastics were 1.7 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent. By 2050, they’re projected to increase to approximately 6.5 gigatonnes. That number represents 15%  of the whole global carbon budget.

Plastic can also alter global carbon cycling through its effect on plankton and primary production in marine, freshwater and terrestrial systems. 

Impact of Plastic Waste on Economy

By 2040, there could be a $100 billion annual financial risk for businesses if governments require them to cover waste management costs. It can also lead to a rise in illegal domestic and international waste disposal. 

Source: This post is based on the article “Plastic pollution in aquatic systems may triple by 2040: UNEP” published in Down To Earth on 22nd October 2021.

Print Friendly and PDF