Follow Us

Five Trillion Plastics in the Ocean: 7 Disturbing Facts From a New Study

A group of scientists have put together what they say is a conservative estimate of plastic in the ocean and where it’s floating. The results aren't pretty.


Not only will floating plastic ruin your vacation photos from Tahiti, more importantly it can entangle or be ingested by all types of marine life.

A group of scientists have been trawling the ocean since to 2007 and as a result have put together what they say is a conservative estimate of plastic in the ocean and where it’s floating. The study was published Dec. 10 in the Public Library of Science.

Plastic particles can be so small that the tiny zooplankton can take it in and pass it up the food chain to predators who are ingesting their own share of plastics, according to the study.

plastics

Photo Credit: Edward Conde/Flickr

Here are some of the eye-catching finds from the study:

1. More than five trillion (that’s a 5 followed by 12 zeros) plastic particles are floating in the ocean.

2. Those plastic particles are estimated to weigh 268,940 tons, which is equivalent to about 100,000 pickup trucks.

3. The 71 million square kilometers of the Indian Ocean has more trash in it than the combined area of the South Atlantic and South Pacific oceans, which cover a total of 125 million square kilometers.

4. Polystyrene – think packaging peanuts, plastic bottles and insulation in fridges – is the most common of the small plastic particles found in the ocean. Runaway and defunct fishing buoys made up the majority of the larger plastics.

5. Almost the same amount of plastic trash accumulated in the waters of the Southern Hemisphere as the Northern Hemisphere. This surprised researchers because a previous study has found the north to be by far a bigger producer of plastic than the south.

6. Much of the plastic trash ends up trapped in the circulating currents of the Earth’s major oceans as well as bays, gulfs and seas where, you guessed it, lots of people live.

7. The 268,940 tons of plastic currently circulating in our oceans is equal to only 0.1 percent of the 288 million tons of plastic produced worldwide in 2012.

Show Comments ()
Illustration by Fabio Manucci

This 10-Foot Crocodile Once Terrorized Great Britain

Scientists' recent discovery of the Melksham Monster has changed everything we thought we knew about crocodile evolution.

Keep Reading Show less

Let's Stay in Touch Subscribe Shark

Credit: Chris Van Wyck

Meet the Turtle With the Best Hair in the Animal Kingdom

The world would be a cooler, chiller place if we all took some hairstyle cues from Australia's Mary River turtle.

Keep Reading Show less

via YouTube

WATCH: This Baby Seal Is Determined to Surf With People

Surfers Matt and Andrew were catching some waves during the summer when a baby seal decided to join.

Keep Reading Show less

Let's Stay in Touch Subscribe Shark