According to a new study by a group of scientists who developed a new computer model to track the flow of global plastic pollution, more than 1.3 billion tons of plastic waste will flow into the world’s oceans and land by 2040 if there’s no intervention.
Single-use plastic has surged in production in recent decades, filling up oceans and land with waste making it harder for waste management systems to dispose of and recycle the plastics produced worldwide.
According to the study, even though a global effort to curb plastic consumption and pollution could mitigate pollution by roughly 80%, about 710 million metric tons of plastic will still be dumped into the environment by 2040 even in the best case scenario.
Even if governments commit to reducing plastic waste, in the next two decades about 133 million tons of plastic will be burned, 77 million tons will dumped on land and 29 million tons will end up in the ocean, researchers projected.
“This scientific inquiry has for the first time given us a comprehensive insight into the staggering amounts of plastic waste that are being dumped into the world’s terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems,” Costas Velis, a lecturer at the University of Leeds in the U.K. and an author of the report titled Breaking the Plastic Wave.” said in a statement.
“We now have a much clearer picture of the sources of the pollution and where it eventually ends up,” Velis said.
Increase in production and disposal of single-use plastic, which is projected to increase by 40% in the next decade, has become more problematic during the coronavirus pandemic, as countries turn away from reusable products and municipalities scaling back recycling operations due to fears over spreading the virus.
The pandemic has also shifted global waste management systems and reduced prices of plastic.
The projected increase in plastic waste according to researchers, will kill more marine life and endanger the human food chain.
According to the study, the biggest source of pollution is municipal waste from households.