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Are Ships the Source of Plastic Waste in the Oceans?


New research suggests we might be thinking about the ocean plastic problem all wrong — trash dumped from ships could be a major culprit.


-> About 14 million tons of plastic enter the ocean every year, 40% of which is single-use plastic, which means it winds up in the ocean within the same year it was produced. 

-> Some scientists estimate that there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in oceans worldwide. A lot of that plastic ends up in giant garbage patches in the ocean.

-> A new study found that the primary source of single-use plastic bottles that wash ashore in the south Atlantic Ocean is likely Chinese merchant marine vessels.


Scientists still aren’t sure where most of this floating plastic comes from. But a new study provides a partial answer: when it comes to plastic bottles in the Atlantic, the culprit appears to be Chinese merchant vessels that are dumping their garbage overboard. 


The researchers behind the study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, examined plastic bottles and other debris that washed up on Inaccessible Island, a remote and uninhabited patch of land in the south Atlantic Ocean. They discovered that the number of plastic bottles that accumulated on the island had increased by 15% every year in the last 35 years. Most of the bottles that arrived during the researchers’ 72-day monitoring period came from China, and date stamps on those bottles indicated that the majority were manufactured in the last two years.


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