Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean

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Science  13 Feb 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6223, pp. 768-771
DOI: 10.1126/science.1260352

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  • Regulating plastic bags: A mountain to climb
    • Zhitong Yao, Hangzhou Dianzi University
    • Other Contributors:
      • Tamara S. Galloway, University of Exeter
      • David K. A. Barnes, Natural Environment Research Council

    In the Report “Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean” (13 Feb., 2015,, Jambeck et al. reported on the quantity of plastic entering the ocean and estimated that 275 million metric tons (MT) of plastic waste was generated in 192 coastal countries in 2010, with 4.8 to 12.7 million MT entering the ocean. Without waste management infrastructure improvements, the cumulative quantity is predicted to increase by an order of magnitude by 2025. High concentrations of plastic debris in the open ocean have adverse effects on marine ecosystems and biodiversity (1, 2). In light of this environmental concern, we think it is urgent to declare war on plastics and strictly regulate the single-use plastic bags.
    The UN has declared a "War on Plastic" and the G20 has released a "Marine Litter Action Plan". It is anticipated that the marine debris issue will be addressed at the forthcoming 3rd meeting of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA 3) and reflected in UN resolutions. Plastic bags are among the top ten items found during coastal clean-ups across the world. They were sighted at sea by marine debris observers on board RRS James Clark Ross only 10 degrees from the north pole this year and in the new proposed giant Marine protected Area around Ascension Island, in the remote mid-Atlantic Ocean. There has been a massive worldwide effort to educat...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • RE: Express growth makes plastics pollution in ocean worse
    • Wei Guo, Professor, School of Environmental and Chemical Engineering, North China Electric Power University, Beijing, China
    • Other Contributors:
      • Shujuan Wang, Master student, School of Environmental and Chemical Engineering, North China Electric Power University, Beijing, China

    ALTHOUGH WE ARE not sure whether plastic will really outweigh fish in the ocean by 2050 (Wilcox et al, PNAS, 38, 11899-11904; 2015), we all know that the land has been inputting plastic wastes into the ocean (Jambeck et al, Science, 347,768-712; 2015). Almost 600,000 plastic particles per square kilometer total weighting about 300,000 tons plastic wastes per year are floating on the surface of the sea (Perkins, Science, 31 Aug. 2015, doi: 10.1126/science.aad1694). And this situation might become worse with the change of people shopping.

    Online shopping by some e-commercial website such as Amazon and Taobao is gradually replacing market shopping, which led the express business to rapidly grow. For example, the business volume of China inland reached to 20.67 billion in 2015, about 11.22 billion plastic bags, 2.97 billion foam filler, 9.9 billion crates, and 16.95 billion meter tapes (length nearly 500 laps around the earth) were consumed in this year ( Through effective recycling and disposal system, plastic bags, cushioning materials and boxes can be maximum reused (STAP, 2011), but for tape, due to composition complexity containing polyvinyl chloride, benzene and formaldehyde adhesives, it is difficult to treat and recycle. When we are trying effort to reduce plastic bags usage (Liao et al., World Sci-Tech R&D, 37, 206-211...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • RE: Inherited plastic waste from the past persist in China
    • Dan Zhao, Professor, Nanyang Technological University

    By 2020, the world’s total consumption of plastics will reach 540 million tons. Plastic wastes clog the world’s oceans and rivers, causing flooding and significant environmental problems (Hoornweg et al, Nature, 512, 615-617; 2013). In the past half century, as the China’s population has grown from 818 million to 1.38 billion and become more urban and affluent with GDP per capita increased from 111 USD to 7600 USD, solid waste production (Li et al, Waste Management, 46,234-241;2015) has risen more than 1000%. One of the main components is plastics (Wang et al Waste Management, 41, 28-38; 2015). Plastic is an excellent and a daily useful material to replace ceramic, wood and metals due to the features of low cost, light weight, flexibility and design adaptability. The global production of plastic has grown with an average rate of 5-6% per year over the past few decades. The main disposal approach is either sanitary landfills (Powell et al, Nature Climate Change,6,162-166;2016) or incineration with energy recovery (Eriksson and Finnveden, Energy Environ. Sci. 2, 907-914;2013). Before 1990s, most trash was landfilled or burned in open dumps. At present, the municipal waste production rate is much higher than the increase of the limits of landfilling and incinerating capacity due to the strong opposition to authorizing and locating new landfills or incineration plats in any particular neighborhood in China. The plastic waste inherited from the past have no priority to dispose...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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