We all know that our global plastics problem is out of control. Sor far, human beings have produced more than eight billion metric tonnes of plastic. Niw, as study in Scientific Reports claims that the problem goes far deeper.
An Australian team of researchers travelled to the Cocos Islands, a remote archipelago in the Indian Ocean that is roughly one thousand seven hundred miles from the northwest coast of Australia. There, they surveyed beaches on seven of the twenty seven islands. Those seven islands accounted for more than ninety per cent of the archipelago’s landmass. And it doesn’t look as nice as Tenerife no matter what.
Even looking at just a fraction of beaches, the researchers still managed to find over twenty three thousand pieces of man-made debris. The bulk of this debris was made up of plastic. Some of these items included flip flops, plastic bags, drinking straws, lids and caps. But sixty per cent of their total haul consisted of micro-debris measuring between two and five millimetres.
The real kicker, though, is that most of the trash is not even where we can see it. Depending on the survey site, between ten to seventy times more debris was found below the surface compared to the rubbish on the surface that they could see.
Perhaps even more troubling, based on these findings, the team extrapolates that there are approximately four hundred and fourteen million pieces of man-made debris on this small set of islands. This will weigh in at over two hundred tons. And the researchers estimate that ninety three per cent of those four hundred and fourteen million pieces are buried, likely in the form of micro debris.
It is a sobering thought. Cleaning up can not keep pace with this rubbish, prevention is the key. Without approaching the problem from multiple angles, such as banning single use plastics and enacting waste management practises practises that prevent our rubbish from spreading, the world will inherit our legacy of rubbish.