Sixteen shopping bags’ worth of plastic rubbish enters the ocean each year, for every metre of the world’s coastlines.
Researchers from the United States and Australia analysed waste management data from 192 coastal countries and calculated that between 4.8 and 12.7 million tonnes of plastic pollution ended up in the ocean in 2010. Based on population growth estimates, this could increase ten-fold over the next decade.
Any method of collecting waste at sea also scoops up marine life, so the solution is improving waste management onshore, says the study’s lead author Jenna Jambeck.
Last year, a separate study involving New Zealand researchers estimated that there are 244,000 tonnes of plastic waste floating on the ocean’s surface.
New Zealand-based data visualisation agency Dumpark used information from this study to create an interactive map of ocean-borne plastic waste, pictured, based on currents and pollution data: