Ocean plastic pollution to treble in ten years

There is expected to be three times more plastic littering the ocean in 2025 than there was in 2015 if current trends continue, UK scientists have warned today.

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A report from the Government Office for Science highlights the dangers of the world’s oceans being “out of sight, out of mind”, with the seabed less mapped than the surface of Mars.

As a result, the full effects of plastic pollution are unknown, however, growing evidence suggests it is harming sea creatures by clogging digestive tracks, as well as polluting beaches.

The report says raising public awareness will likely be needed to tackle the issue, along with preventing the amount of litter entering the sea, and introducing biodegradable materials.

“Our decades-long addiction to plastic packaging has been a complete disaster for our oceans,” Plastic Planet co-founder, Sian Sutherland, said. “We have to go plastic-free urgently.

“Future generations can ill-afford for our plastic detritus to languish in the oceans for centuries, which means embracing the raft of plastic-free packaging solutions already on the market.”

Along with plastic pollution, the report highlights a number of other long-term challenges facing the ocean as a result of human activities, including a loss in marine biodiversity, chemical pollution, and rising sea levels.

It also states that ocean warming of 1.2-3.2˚C is projected by 2100 depending on greenhouse gas emissions, which is likely to result in a decline in cold-water fish, coral bleaching, and new species in UK waters.

However, the report highlights how the global ‘ocean economy’ is set to double in size to £2trn by 2030, and that the UK could take advantage of this through areas such as offshore wind.

It predicts a growing reliance on the sea for resources and busier seas, and that autonomy and robotics will improve understanding of the marine environment, facilitating new and more efficient economic activity.

“Both the opportunities and the challenges set out in this important report are global in scale and demand our urgent attention,” Foreign and Commonwealth Office minister, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, said.

“We must keep pushing our scientific understanding of the oceans, harness new technologies, and support commercial innovation. Most of all, we must ensure that governments keep pace with this changing environment.

“International collaboration remains crucial in order to realise the fullest benefits of our marine industries and scientists, for the UK and the world.”

 

Image credit: iStock

 

Author: 

Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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