American Oceans

Scientists Find the Best Strategy for Tackling the Plastic Pollution in the Ocean

a fish swimming near plastic in the ocean

Millions of tons of plastic pollution are littering the world’s oceans and waterways, and the urgency to address this issue is growing. However, a new study warns against using mechanical cleanup devices to address this global crisis. The study suggests that we should think twice before cleaning up the oceans with any mechanical devices, such as the ones used by the “Ocean Cleanup” project to corral the debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The scientists argue that using mechanical devices to clean up the oceans could do more harm than good. They explain that these devices can harm marine life and disrupt the ocean’s natural processes. Instead, the study advocates for a more comprehensive approach to tackling plastic pollution, one that includes raising awareness, urgent action, and partnership between governments, businesses, and individuals. The study also emphasizes the need to address the root causes of plastic pollution, such as climate change, pesticides, and other pollutants.

One study suggests 95% of our attention and energy should be focused on reducing the flow of plastic trash into the ocean, and only 5% on cleanup. Study co-author Richard Thompson of Plymouth University in the U.K. warns that plastic debris is entering the ocean at a rate far faster than any feasible cleanup. Focusing on clean up as a solution to plastic pollution can distract attention from the real priorities. It is important to turn off the tap before mopping the floor.

The harmful effects of plastic on marine life and the marine environment are well-documented. Plastic waste can entangle marine animals and cause ingestion. Microplastics, microfibers, and fishing gear can harm marine organisms and wildlife. Plastic in rivers can also end up in the ocean, contributing to the problem. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a prime example of the impact of plastic waste on marine ecosystems.

Reducing the flow of plastic trash into the ocean can help protect marine life and biodiversity, as well as the human food chain. It is important to address the issue of plastic pollution at its source, by implementing policies and practices that reduce plastic waste. This includes reducing single-use plastics, improving waste management, and promoting sustainable alternatives. By reducing the flow of plastic trash into the ocean, we can prevent future contamination and protect the marine environment.

According to a study published in the journal One Earth, reducing plastic production and consumption is the most cost-effective and efficient way to prevent further pollution, as plastic production is projected to triple by 2060. The study recommends a global treaty that would foremost reduce plastic production, as it is the most effective and economic lever to reduce plastic pollution. The scientists behind the study also suggest that the environmental costs of leaving plastic pollution in the ocean should be weighed against the full environmental and economic cost of plastic removal technologies. They call for clear criteria for such judgments to be incorporated into the treaty.

World leaders are preparing to resume discussions on the United Nations Global Plastics Treaty at the upcoming third meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution. The treaty aims to reduce plastic waste by implementing measures such as waste management, recycling, and reducing single-use plastic. The reduction of plastic waste would also lead to a reduction in carbon emissions from the production and disposal of plastics, which are derived from fossil fuels.

The treaty would have a significant impact on reducing plastic waste, which is a major contributor to ocean pollution. Beverage bottles and cigarette butts are among the most common types of plastic waste found in the ocean. By implementing measures to reduce plastic production and consumption, the treaty would help to mitigate the negative impact of plastic on the environment and marine life.

One type of cleanup that researchers encourage is hand picking plastic debris from beaches, which can be very effective, especially if volunteers take part in the effort to raise awareness. However, this method can be time-consuming and challenging, especially when dealing with large amounts of plastic debris.

The Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit organization, has developed various devices, including the Interceptor, to capture plastic debris from rivers before it reaches the ocean. However, the efficiency and effectiveness of these devices are still being studied, and their impact on marine organisms is not yet fully understood.

Marine biologists and scientists continue to explore different methods of plastic recovery and ocean cleanup, and more research is needed to determine the most effective and least harmful approach.

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