Study Shows Alarming Increase in Plastic Waste and Predicts Tripled Amount by 2040

Indonesia aims for zero waste and zero emissions through "Indonesia Bersih 2025" program (photo: Naja Bertolt Jensen - Unsplash)

A recent study estimates that plastic waste in oceans has been increasing since 2005 and if the issue is not addressed, plastic waste could triple by 2040. The use of plastic products is extremely harmful, not only polluting the environment and oceans but also posing a danger to marine animals that mistake plastic for food.

The peer-reviewed study, led by the US-based organization 5 Gyres Institute, which campaigns to reduce plastic pollution, revealed that there were 171 trillion plastic particles floating in the oceans in 2019.

The organization predicts that plastic pollution in the oceans could increase by 2.6 times by 2040 if global legal policies are not enforced.

According to a Reuters report on March 8, 2023, the study observed data from 11,777 ocean stations in six major ocean regions, covering the period from 1979 to 2019, regarding plastic pollution occurring on the surface.

“We have found a worrying exponential growth trend in microplastics in the global oceans since the millennium,” said Marcus Eriksen, one of the founders of the 5 Gyres Group.

The study demonstrates that the level of ocean pollution caused by plastic waste has been underestimated, according to experts.

“The figures in this new study are phenomenal and almost beyond comprehension,” said scientist and plastic expert Paul Harvey of Environmental Science Solutions.

In November, the United Nations began considering a legally binding agreement to address plastic pollution.

Meanwhile, environmental organization Sungai Watch released its “Sungai Watch Impact Report 2022”.

In the report, Sungai Watch sorted and audited plastic waste by brand and manufacturer in Bali and East Java. The report found that single-use plastic water bottle waste remains the largest type of plastic waste in Indonesia.

“We hope these findings will encourage companies and the public to take action to address plastic pollution,” Sungai Watch said in the report.

“Our goal is to stop plastic from flowing into the sea and to find ways to prevent plastic pollution from entering rivers,” Sungai Watch added.

Sungai Watch audited a total of 235,218 plastic waste items from Bali and East Java, and single-use plastic cups accounted for 63% of the waste, followed by two brands of bottled water (27% and 5%), reusable gallon caps (3%), and soft drink bottles (1%).

According to Sungai Watch’s report, their team managed to remove 535,246 kg of non-organic waste from rivers and seas in Bali and East Java in 2022.

The team also placed trash barriers in several rivers to prevent plastic waste from flowing into the ocean.