Plastic has become one of the most successful inventions, but potentially one of the curses of mankind. From 1950 to 2015, a total of 8.3 billion tons of plastic was produced, and now it is everywhere, which threatens the environment, since it does not decompose. Only 9% of this volume was processed, another 12% – burned. It turns out that almost 80% (6.3 billion tons) remained with us in the form of waste that does not have any reasonable decomposition time, these waste will almost always remain in the form of landfills, garbage on land or in the oceans.
Each year, plastic kills 1 million seabirds, 100,000 mammals, and an immeasurable number of fish. According to current estimates, there are 150 million tons of plastic in the oceans and another 8 million gets there every year – a whole truck of plastic every minute. And 0.5-2.75 million tons of plastic comes from rivers.
Large rivers are a particularly effective way to transport plastic to the oceans, especially in countries with inadequate waste disposal infrastructure. Up to 95% of this plastic enters the oceans from just 10 rivers, according to German scientists from the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research in Leipzig.
Not all of these rivers contribute equally. For example, the Yangtze is an undeniable leader – 1.5 million tons of plastic enters the oceans through it, which is more than all the other 9 rivers combined.
If current trends continue, then instead of one conventional plastic truck per minute to the oceans by 2050 this will happen every 15 seconds, and by this year the volume of plastic waste will exceed the mass of all fish in the oceans.
Let’s hope that the rallies of schoolchildren led by Greta Thunberg in the cities of the USA and Europe and the prohibitions of plastic tubes in California will help solve this problem.