The study, led by Jenna Jambeck, a professor of environmental engineering at the University of Georgia, looked at solid waste data collected in 192 countries in 2010. “Eight million metric tons equals five shopping bags filled with plastic bags each. one on each foot (30 cm) of the coastline of the 192 countries we analyzed, ”Jambeck said at a press conference.
The results, published this week in the journal Science, indicate that of the 275 million tons of plastic waste generated in 2010, between 4.8 and 12.7 million reached the ocean that year, the majority produced by a score of countries led by China and among which is also the United States.
The team of researchers, made up of engineers, biologists, oceanographers and ecologists, points out that although other studies had previously highlighted the presence of plastic debris in the oceans, until now the amount that enters annually was not known.
Jambeck, who spoke in the framework of the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS, for its acronym in English) held in San José (California), pointed out that “it is not a question of accusing but to examine what leads those countries to be on that list. "
According to their projections, the amount of plastic dumped into the sea increases every year, which is why they estimate that in 2015 about 9.1 million tons will reach the oceans.
The team warns that if no action is taken, such as improving waste management and expanding plastic recovery systems, this amount could have a cumulative impact of up to 155 million tons by 2025.
"We must reduce the generation of garbage and increase the amount of garbage collected and managed properly," stressed Jambeck. To arrive at these data, they have created a prediction model in which, in addition to quantifying the amount of waste, it analyzes other factors in the countries, as well as their population density or their economic situation, with data from the World Bank.