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The world’s oceans will be home to more plastic than fish by 2050

The latest study by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation reveals that there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050.

Imagine oceans populated by fish swimming among plastic pieces of any origin and dimension. Imagine oceans where you’re more likely to find a plastic bottle rather than an anchovy. A horror movie? No, the ugly truth that, unfortunately, the world is going to face by 2050.

Plastic is deadly to fish and birds

That’s what is shown in a report carried out by the Ellen McArthur Foundation, in collaboration with McKinsey Centre for Business and Environment, and presented at the 2016 World Economic Forum at Davos. According to the analysis, the ratio of plastic to fish in the oceans – currently is one to five – will be one to three by 2025. By 2050, fish amount in oceans will be thus fewer than plastic debris.

La quantità di rifiuti in plastica presente nei mari di tutto il mondo è destinata ad aumentare vertiginosamente nei prossimi decenni ©Hajj0 ms/Wikimedia Commons
The amount of plastic in the world’s oceans is likely to significantly increase over the decades to come ©Hajj0 ms/Wikimedia Commons

This will represent an environment catastrophe: fish will ingest plastic debris, with deadly consequences for the food chain. Currently, according to a study published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, up to 90% of seabirds in the world have plastic in their guts.

How to avoid the worst?

According to the report presented at Davos, the only way to avoid making oceans uninhabitable is “triggering a revolution in the plastics industrial ecosystem”, and looking for alternatives to oil as raw material. If this trend continues, plastic material producers will consume 20% of global oil production by 2050.

La presenza di plastica negli oceani nuoce in particolare ai pesci e agli uccelli © U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters/Wikimedia Commons
Plastic debris in the world’s oceans is particularly harmful for fish and seabirds © U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters/Wikimedia Commons

Switching to sustainable alternatives and enhancing reutilisation could allow huge savings in financial terms: “The current plastics economy has drawbacks that are becoming more apparent by the day. After a short first-use cycle, 95% of plastic packaging material value, or $80–120 billion annually, is lost to the economy”.

France says goodbye to plastic glasses and plates

However, change can be driven also by our daily behaviours. A simple act, like going shopping with a reusable bag can significantly help face the problem. It’s no coincidence that many countries are working to limit the use of shopping bags.

An example is France, which will ban the distribution of plastic bags in all supermarkets as of March, as well it will ban the sale of plastic cutlery starting from 2020. Why don’t other European countries follow close behind?

Cover photo: epSos.de/Wikimedia Commons

 

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