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The Amount of Plastic in the World's Oceans Has Reached More Than 170 Trillion Pieces

09.03.2023
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https://www.bbc.com/russian/news-64891662

In 2005, the number of plastic objects in the ocean was estimated at 16 trillion, and since then the number has increased more than 10 times. The new estimate of plastic pollution in the world's oceans has come from a combination of analysis of data available since 1979 and results from expeditions that combed the seas with garbage nets.

The result of 171 trillion pieces consists of both recently discarded plastic and old, already partially eroded plastic. Disposable plastic, which is used to make bottles, packaging and some items for fishing, breaks down into smaller pieces over time under the influence of sunlight and mechanical processes.

Marine animals such as whales, turtles, fish, and some seabirds mistake plastic for food and can simply starve to death if they stuff their stomachs with it. Microplastics also end up in drinking water, as a result of which its particles have been found in the lungs, veins and even in the human placenta. So far, scientists cannot reliably say how harmful it is to the human body.

The highest concentration of ocean plastic is currently found in the North Atlantic Ocean. Some large debris patches have also been found elsewhere, such as in the Pacific Ocean.

In the 1980s, several legally binding international agreements called for an end to the dumping of plastic from fishing and naval vessels. They were later replaced by voluntary agreements, which, according to the authors, may have been less effective.

On March 5, an agreement was signed aimed at protecting the oceans, informally called the "High Seas Treaty". More than a hundred countries, after years of negotiations, have reached a historic agreement to protect the oceans. In accordance with the legal framework agreed upon in it, 30% of the World Ocean outside the territorial waters of individual states (which covers two thirds of its total area) becomes a protected area. The agreement also provides for the allocation of additional funds for its protection and for the restoration of natural resources.

But the authors of the study argue that solutions should focus on reducing the production and use of plastic, rather than cleaning up the oceans and recycling plastic, because that is less likely to stop the flow of pollution.

 

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