A new article in Science: 18 Sep 2020
Vol. 369, Issue 6510, pp. 1515-1518 DOI: 10.1126/science.aba3656
Predicted growth in plastic waste exceeds efforts to mitigate plastic pollution
Stephanie B. Borrelle, Jeremy Ringma, Kara Lavender Law, Cole C. Monnahan, Laurent Lebreton, Alexis McGivern, Erin Murphy, Jenna Jambeck, George H. Leonard, Michelle A. Hilleary, Marcus Eriksen, Hugh P. Possingham, Hannah De Frond, Leah R. Gerber, Beth Polidoro, Akbar Tahir, Miranda Bernard, Nicholas Mallos, Megan Barnes, Chelsea M. Rochman
"It is not clear what strategies will be most effective in mitigating harm from the global problem of plastic pollution. Borrelle et al. and Lau et al. discuss possible solutions and their impacts. Both groups found that substantial reductions in plastic-waste generation can be made in the coming decades with immediate, concerted, and vigorous action, but even in the best case scenario, huge quantities of plastic will still accumulate in the environment."
Plastic pollution is a planetary threat, affecting nearly every marine and freshwater ecosystem globally. In response, multilevel mitigation strategies are being adopted but with a lack of quantitative assessment of how such strategies reduce plastic emissions. We assessed the impact of three broad management strategies, plastic waste reduction, waste management, and environmental recovery, at different levels of effort to estimate plastic emissions to 2030 for 173 countries. We estimate that 19 to 23 million metric tons, or 11%, of plastic waste generated globally in 2016 entered aquatic ecosystems. Considering the ambitious commitments currently set by governments, annual emissions may reach up to 53 million metric tons per year by 2030. To reduce emissions to a level well below this prediction, extraordinary efforts to transform the global plastics economy are needed.