More than 37 million pieces of plastic debris have accumulated on a remote island in the South Pacific, thousands of miles from the nearest city, according to estimates from researchers who documented the accumulating trash.
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Plastics are overwhelming our oceans and landfills. Every year, an estimated 19 billion pounds of plastic garbage end up in the sea. In the U.S. alone, approximately 56 billion pounds of plastic are dumped annually in landfills.
But here’s a heartening truth: We can all do something to mitigate this growing plastics crisis. Yes, all. From entrepreneurs and corporations who need to rethink the way plastic products are designed and manufactured; to lawmakers who can push for the protection of fragile environments from plastic pollution; to individuals (that means you) whose seemingly small daily actions can add up to something huge, we all have a role to play.
In general, less than 7 percent of all the plastic that Americans throw away each year are recycled, and about 8 percent are combusted in waste-to-energy facilities. The rest end up in landfills.
An average American family of four uses more than 1,500 plastic bags every year, according to the NRDC. Each bag is typically only used for about 12 minutes; yet since plastic bags are very rarely recycled, most of them end up in landfills, where they can languish for hundreds of years.
failure to offer financial incentives has resulted in a wasteful recycling system. Over 25 years since kerbside recycling began, 70% of plastic containers are never reclaimed. Just 30% end up being recycled.
At least 8 million tons of plastics wind up in the oceans each year ― that’s like dumping the contents of a garbage truck into marine waters every minute. This trash ― be it bottle caps, balloons or fishing twine ― can take a toll on marine life.
When animals find plastic refuse floating around in the ocean, they can mistake it for food and eat it. Over time, if they eat enough, they can begin to feel full and die of malnutrition. They can also get entangled in discarded packaging materials or abandoned fishing gear, leading to injury and sometimes death.
Among other things, Roekke’s ship will remove up to five tons of plastic daily from the ocean and melt it down so it can do no harm.
The cost of the ship was not disclosed, but it will include everything from sea and air drones to an auditorium to enormous amounts of lab space. It will be managed by conservation organization WWF, and be known as REV, short for research expedition vessel. One of its primary focuses will be how to control the enormous amount of plastic now at sea.