International Energy Agency has warned that the oceanic plastic waste is likely
to more than double by 2030 and it will get worse if action is not taken now.
shocking images of strangulated turtles have raised awareness about the threat
to oceans from plastic waste; but IEA says unless there is a global revolution
in recycling and waste management, the plastic pollution will not be
It’s estimated that around 100 million metric tons of plastic
waste has already “leaked” into oceans, an amount that’s increasing annually by
5 million to 15 million tons, according to research cited by the IEA. The
infamous Pacific garbage patch, which covers an area three times the size of
France and holds the equivalent of 250 pieces of plastic for each person on
earth, may only contain as much as 79,000 tons, the IEA said.
The problem is that
recycling and waste management efforts aren’t keeping pace with the massive
growth in plastic production and consumption. Less than 20 percent of plastic
waste is currently collected for recycling, according to the IEA.
production has increased by more than 10-fold since 1970, faster than any other
group of bulk materials, according to the IEA. And demand has nearly doubled
since the start of the millennium.
projects that by 2050 production of a group of key thermoplastics including
polyethylene terephthalate (used to make plastic bottles), polyethylene and PVC
could grow almost 70 percent from 2017 levels. Global production would increase
almost 30 percent to more than 60 kilogram per capita.
Europe, and other developed economies currently use as much as 20 times more
plastic per capita than emerging economies, according to the IEA. Developing
nations will increase their share of global consumption as their populations
get bigger and wealthier, while use by developed countries remains stable or
ambitious action being taken globally, particularly in regions in which plastic
demand is growing rapidly, current trends of plastic leakage are unlikely even
to slow, let alone reverse,” the IEA said.
projections are according to its Reference Technology Scenario, or how things
could develop based on today’s policies and behavior. The future is less bleak
under its Clean Technology Scenario.
This model is based on the agency’s Sustainable Development
Scenario, which takes “a vision of where the energy sector needs to go and
works back from that to the present, rather than projecting forward from
Under this scenario, “environmental impacts decline across the
board”. Thanks to waste management improvements and a rapid increase in
recycling, cumulative plastic waste in oceans could be halved by 2050 compared
with the RTS scenario. This would require the elimination of materials that
defy collection, such as microbeads and ultra-thin plastic films.
As well, “achieving this goal entails a transformation in waste
management practices across the globe,” the IEA said, “including widespread
waste collection in regions that have poor systems in place at the moment, if