At the World Economic Forum in Davos today, a new report into the plastics economy says if production growth stays on course, the ocean is expected to contain 1 ton of plastic for every 3 tons of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastics than fish (by weight).
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, whose founder is a record-breaking sailor, is using its report to bring together manufacturers and policymakers to develop "moonshot" ideas to stop plastic waste before it meets coastlines. For instance, because biodegradable plastics are generally compostable only under controlled conditions, MacArthur experts are seeking "bio-benign" plastics to lessen impact.
While the report focuses largely on prevention, cleanup ideas and strategies become even more important if plastics continue to boom.
The Ocean Conservancy says over half of material leaked into the ocean comes from five rapidly developing countries: China, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand. Waste collection in these countries alone could reduce plastics in the ocean by 45 percent, but would cost billions of dollars (USD).
What are other innovations aimed at cleaning up plastics? How are they being implemented in California? How do strategies focused on coastlines compare to those focused on garbage patches on the open seas?
Sarah Sikich, Vice President, Heal the Bay - nonprofit environmental organization based in Santa Monica