Single-use plastics dominate debris on the North Pacific’s deep ocean floor – Scientists have discovered the densest accumulation of plastic waste ever recorded on an abyssal seafloor (4,561 items per square kilometer), finding that the majority of this waste is single-use packaging.

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Single use plastics dominate debris on the North Pacifics deep ocean

Single-use plastics dominate debris on the North Pacific’s deep ocean floor – Scientists have discovered the densest accumulation of plastic waste ever recorded on an abyssal seafloor (4,561 items per square kilometer), finding that the majority of this waste is single-use packaging.

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20 Comments

NeutralBias

Its a pity we don’t have a system where i can just bring a jerry can (or something similar) to a grocery and refill it with dish soap or spray cleaner or whatever else comes in a plastic bottle. You know, like people do with 5 gal water jugs.Edit: Oh wow, plenty stores like that DO exist! Thank you helpful internet denizens!

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[deleted]

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hulkamaanio

And this is just the tip of the iceberg we can see. The ocean is filled with microplastics all over :(

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h7hh77

I'll be glad to use anything but plastic. But the alternatives are hard to find. I would buy a glass, metal or paper packaging, but everything is tripple wrapped in plastic and specifically designed to be single use only. This has to start from the top.

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schnickelfritz77

There is very little choice for non plastic packaging. The only way out of this is regulation and pricing. Government needs to step in globally and shut this down. It’s getting out of hand. We closed the hole in the ozone decades ago. It can be done.

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conciseone

I thought it was discarded fishing nets and other waste products from the fishing industry?

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OsamaBinLadenDoes

Convenience has offered us a lot of benefits as a society with single-use packaging, but clearly we are not able to keep up with the quantity and require substantial shifts in consumption. The consumption will be by citizens, but ideally it will come in combination with bulk purchase ability, zero or little waste packaging, EPR, and other measures.Even discounting litter it was put forth in [Scientific American in 1974](https://www.jstor.org/stable/24950139?seq=1) that:> Contrary to some widely held views, the ocean is the plausible place for man to dispose of some of his wastes.So it is no surprise that we are still using this as an option.In some cases plastics will still be the best material for the job, but currently it commonly offers the cheapest and lightest option for companies and it is not a necessity for them to design for recycling, or account for the waste management costs when putting items on the market.In the UK EPR and DRS are coming forwards, as well as consistent household collections (to remove confusion around the country), as well as taxation for minimal recycled content in packaging and additional costs if putting non-recyclable packaging materials on the market. This will still take a few years to implement fully as the effects must be measured, in particular alternative costs (emissions, tyre abrasion from waste truck traffic, etc.).As the UK is one of the worst for consumption of single-use plastics (and many other materials single-use or not) it is high time we made great shifts in this matter. Arguably, it can only really come from a systemic change in all our behaviours (which is unlikely), though at least with smaller technological, legislative, and behavioural changes we can mitigate these impacts and stop adding to plastic in the ocean at such a rate.Some links/sources:[Introducing a Deposit Return Scheme in England, Wales and Northern Ireland](https://consult.defra.gov.uk/environment/consultation-on-introducing-a-drs/)>Government committed to continuing to develop proposals and stated that it was minded to implement a scheme from 2023, subject to further evidence and analysis on the costs and benefits of such a scheme.[Extended Producer Responsibility for Packaging](https://consult.defra.gov.uk/extended-producer-responsibility/extended-producer-responsibility-for-packaging/)[Consultation on Consistency in Household and Business Recycling Collections in England](https://consult.defra.gov.uk/environmental-quality/consultation-on-consistency-in-household-and-busin/)>Members of the public, industry and other stakeholders have called for greater consistency in the materials collected for recycling as well as, to some extent, how it is collected.[Plastic Packaging Tax](https://consult.defra.gov.uk/environmental-quality/plastic-packaging-tax/#:~:text=At%20Budget%202018%2C%20this%20government,taking%20effect%20from%20April%202022.)>government announced its intention to introduce a new tax on plastic packaging. The tax will apply to businesses that produce or import plastic packaging which uses insufficient recycled content, taking effect from April 2022.[Study on the feasibility of applying extended producer responsibility to micropollutants and microplastics emitted in the aquatic environment from products during their life cycle](https://www.eureau.org/resources/publications/eureau-publications/4309-deloitte-eureau-report-extended-producer-responsibility-module-3/file)>An EPR scheme that would incentivise ecodesign and improve effective end of life collection would not be applicable in the case of tyres and road particles because product design is made considering the trade-off between tyre abrasion and performance.

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jctejada

Maybe we should stop dumping our garbage in the oceans. Eventually someone is going to have to get in there and clean it up. Can only sweep it under the ocean for so long.

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mvea

The post title is from the linked academic press release here:Single-use plastics dominate debris on the North Pacific's deep ocean floorBy doing video surveillance deep in the ocean, researchers working in the North Pacific have discovered the densest accumulation of plastic waste ever recorded on an abyssal seafloor, finding that the majority of this waste is single-use packaging.They found that more than 80% of the debris was single-use plastics such as bags, food packaging and water bottles. And the overall density of plastics found in the area, 4,561 items per square kilometer, was the largest ever recorded on any abyssal seafloor by two orders of magnitude.The source journal article is here:https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X21002228Massive occurrence of benthic plastic debris at the abyssal seafloor beneath the Kuroshio Extension, the North West PacificMarine Pollution Bulletin Available online 29 March 2021, 112188DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2021.112188Get rights and contentHighlights• Plastic debris is distributed ubiquitously and abundantly even at abyssal depths.• Single-use plastics dominate the debris on the abyssal plains of the North Pacific.• A 35-year-old food wrapper was found largely intact on the deep seafloor.• The seafloor beneath the Kuroshio Extension is an important sink for plastic debris.AbstractThe abyss (3500–6500 m) covers the bulk of the deep ocean floor yet little is known about the extent of plastic debris on the abyssal seafloor. Using video imagery we undertook a quantitative assessment of the debris present on the abyssal seafloor (5700–5800 m depth) beneath the Kuroshio Extension current system in the Northwest Pacific. This body of water is one of the major transit pathways for the massive amounts of debris that are entering the North Pacific Ocean from Asia. Shallower sites (1400–1500 m depth) were also investigated for comparison. The dominant type of debris was single-use plastics - mainly bags and food packaging. The density of the plastic debris (mean 4561 items/km2) in the abyssal zone was the highest recorded for an abyssal plain suggesting that the deep-sea basin in the Northwest Pacific is a significant reservoir of plastic debris.

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de1usional

Everyone tells us to use less and less plastic, but manufacturers are still producing said plastic. Even if I’m not using plastic it will still be manufactured. So why don’t the manufacturers producing said plastic cut back? Why does the consumer always draw the short straw?

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SublightD

Amazing how human it is to create something so durable it lasts damn near forever...and then make it single use disposable.

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Hugebluestrapon

Why are corporations still allowed to make this? Most if it can't even be recycled in any way.

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swamphockey

Every year USA disposes of 121,000 tons of plastic into the ocean and China 3.5 million tons of plastic into the ocean. The total is 8m tons of plastic into the ocean every year.

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liesliesfromtinyeyes

I swear: the archaeologists/geologists of the future will call this era the “Plasticene” and they will be 100% right to do so. An indelible mark in our sedimentary record.

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Capt_Picard_7

Poor Asian countries are the worst offenders according to this study: https://www.statista.com/chart/12211/the-countries-polluting-the-oceans-the-most/The US is responsible for very little in comparison. We just put it all in landfills.It's a tough problem to solve when many countries literally just dump waste into rivers and beaches.

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beanieb22

Discarded and/or lost fishing gear is also a huge contributor to ocean plastic debris and I would argue they're even more dangerous.

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nyjewels10001

I would like to know how much of this is fishing waste and fishing net as the documentary seaspiricy suggests. That doc stayed fishing net and waste equipment was more than 50% of plastic in oceans.

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