The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
By Joe McCarthy
The oceans are massive, pulsing, vibrant bodies of water that serve humanity in countless ways—from providing food to enabling commerce to simply being beautiful.
But these powerful expanses of sea are not invincible. Each year, human activity erodes marine life in some way. Overfishing is driving many fish populations to the brink of extinction, carbon emissions are acidifying the waters, making it hard for small sea animals to reproduce, rising global temperatures are cooking coral reefs alive.
And plastic—the ubiquitous material that comes in so many forms—is terrorizing everything that depends on these waters.
Here are nine shocking facts about how much plastic is in the oceans:
1. Every half second, this much plastic makes it into the world's oceans:
Taken at the UN's Clean Seas Exhibit in New York
2. At least 8 million tons of plastic enter the oceans each year. That's similar to emptying a garbage truck of plastic into an ocean every minute.
3. There is more microplastic in the ocean than there are stars in the Milky Way.
4. 322 million tons of plastic were produced in 2015—the same weight as 900 Empire State Buildings (which is made of granite and steel).
5. 60-90 percent of marine litter is plastic-based.
6. More than 50 percent of sea turtles have consumed plastic.
7. The average U.S. citizen consumes 167 plastic water bottles each year—but recycles just 25 percent of them.
8. The amount of plastic in the world's oceans could increase by a factor of 10 in the next decade.
9. Cigarette butts, plastic bags, fishing gear, and food and beverage containers are the most common forms of plastic pollution found in the oceans.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Low-Fat Diets Rich in Fruits and Veggies May Reduce Women’s Risk of Breast Cancer Death, Study Finds
Colorado senator and 2020 hopeful Michael Bennet introduced his plan to combat climate change Monday, in the first major policy rollout of his campaign. Bennet's plan calls for the establishment of a "Climate Bank," using $1 trillion in federal spending to "catalyze" $10 trillion in private spending for the U.S. to transition entirely to net-zero emissions by 2050.
When Trump's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan in August 2018, its own estimates said the reduced regulations could lead to 1,400 early deaths a year from air pollution by 2030.
Now, the EPA wants to change the way it calculates the risks posed by particulate matter pollution, using a model that would lower the death toll from the new plan, The New York Times reported Monday. Five current or former EPA officials familiar with the plan told The Times that the new method would assume there is no significant health gain by lowering air pollution levels below the legal limit. However, many public health experts say that there is no safe level of particulate matter exposure, which has long been linked to heart and lung disease.
By Andrea Germanos
Animal welfare advocates are praising soon-to-be introduced legislation in the U.S. that would ban the use of wild animals in traveling circuses.