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Ocean Plastics

February 17, 2015

Middle income countries with underdeveloped waste-management infrastructures contribute disproportionately to plastic debris that ends up in the ocean.




Plastic debris on the beach. (Bo Eide/flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Stemming a plastic avalanche. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

In December, we reported that about 270,000 metric tons of plastic was floating in plastic islands in the oceans. Now, new research suggests that’s just the tip of plastic berg: In the journal Science, University of Georgia researcher Jenna Jambeck reports that worldwide, about eight million metric tons of plastic get swept into the sea, much of it from countries that don’t have the infrastructure to collect and manage the waste.

JENNA JAMBECK (University of Georgia):

Often times as societies, we will address acute matters like clean drinking water first, and so sometimes waste can get pushed to the side until later. So we’re seeing a lot of middle income countries that are developing that just haven’t been able to address the waste management infrastructure problem yet.


By showing where and how the plastic is getting into the seas, the report can help policy makers address the problem. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.