In 2050, There Will be More Plastic in the Ocean Than Fish

Image of a black-blotched porcupinefish. Credit:  David Clode/Unsplash

Image of a black-blotched porcupinefish. Credit: David Clode/Unsplash

According to the United nations, in 1950, the world produced some 1.5 million tons of plastic. By 2016, that figure had risen to over 320 million tons. Alarmingly, the amount of plastic we produce is set to double over the next 30 years, and according to scientists, the impact on marine life will be dramatic.

Already, 18 billion pounds of plastic waste flow into our oceans each year, and recent studies revealed plastic pollution in 100% of marine turtles, 59% of whales, 36% of seals, and 40% of seabird species. The death toll that this causes is hard to fathom. 100,000 marine mammals and 1 million seabirds are killed by marine plastic pollution annually.

And as the amount of plastic pollution that humanity produces continues to increase, these numbers will only rise.

There will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050 unless people stop using single-use plastic items.
— United Nations Environment Program

But we can change the course of the future. In Norway, for example, they manage to capture 96% of their single-use plastic bottles. By keeping this high-quality plastic material in the loop, as opposed to in landfills, they are able to recycle it into new products — meaning there’s less need for new plastic bottles and less pollution in our waterways.

The process works thanks to a remarkably progressive environment tax, which comes to about 40 cents per bottle for all plastic producers and importers. This high cost means that, if companies are able to recycle plastic materials, their taxes are lower. If the organizations manage to recycle more than 95 percent of their plastic materials, their taxes are forfeited.

Such practices can be facilitated in other countries through deposit return schemes like the one used in Norway. And since 40% of the plastic that’s produced goes into packaging that’s used just once and discarded, we can further combat this issue by converting to reusable bags and alternative forms of packaging, like plant-based products.

Of course, there are a number of other ways that we can aid in this cause. Plastic Pollution Coalition is a growing global alliance of more than 750 organizations, businesses, and thought leaders from 60 countries. Their mission? A world free of plastic pollution, one where its toxic impact isn't felt by humans, animals, or the environment at large.

If you are interested in joining, or you want to know more about how you or your organization can help, head over to the Plastic Pollution Coalition website.