In Depth

By 2050, the world's oceans will contain more plastic than fish

One third of all plastic ends up in the world's ecosystems, but what can we do?

If we carry on producing plastic – and failing to dispose of it properly – at predicted rates, the plastic waste in the ocean will weigh more than all the world's fish by 2050, says a report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

By then, it predicts, we'll be making more than three times as much plastic as we did in 2014 and one third of it will end up in the world's ecosystems.

Why is this happening?

Based on interviews with more than 180 experts in the field, the report found that most plastic packaging is used only once before being discarded. Eight million tons of it ends up in the ocean every year - or "five bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world", says Jenna Jambeck, of the University of Georgia.

What will the impact be?

A carelessly discarded bag can break down in the sea, especially in warmer waters, but the process releases toxic chemicals that may be digested by fish and end up in the human food chain, says The Guardian.

"The fish you may count on to eat is ingesting plastic, getting entangled in it and dying from having stomachs full of it," said Dianna Cohen, the chief executive of the Plastic Pollution Coalition.

What can we do?

"One of the biggest problems [to] focus on is single use and disposable plastic," Cohen says. She also calls on governments to take steps to reduce the waste by forcing producers to take back the plastic used in packaging.

The report also suggests that plastics should be both recyclable and compostable – currently, they are either one or the other.

According to Fortune, attempts to increase global recycling efforts could face a major hurdle in the form of low oil prices. With the collapse of global oil prices, plastic recycling becomes less profitable and the magazine reports that large recycling firms in the US, such Waste Management, have reported steep declines in revenue from their operations.

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