The numbers don’t lie, and they’re sending us a clear message: our oceans are in deep trouble. Our beautiful waters stretch across more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface and a whopping 97 percent of our planet’s water resides within our oceans. These facts highlight the pressing need for all of us to come together and take action to protect and preserve our precious waters.

In this article, we’ll draw on data from Our World Online, exploring themes such as worst industry and national ocean polluters, and what sustainable practices can be implemented to achieve a greener future. We’ve broken down the stats, uncovered the implications, and discussed why it’s absolutely crucial to put a stop to the year-on-year increase in waste pollution. Plus, we’ll explore how Direct365 can support your sustainability goals with specialist waste solutions for your business.

Let’s begin.

In at the Deep End

The cumulative impact of waste in our oceans reached a staggering 1,223,850 tonnes in 2020, revealing an escalating crisis. In 2030, a 60.0% rise is anticipated, followed by a substantial escalation of 147.4% by 2040. The gravity of this situation becomes even more stark when considering that by 2023, oceanic waste has already surged 3.25 times higher compared to 2000. And by 2050—if current trends persist—this number is estimated to surge significantly, with a projected increase of 274.0%.

Where is this waste likely to be found? Over the period spanning 1950 to 2015, a staggering total of 123,267,294 tonnes of plastic waste was accumulated globally, with 98.7% predominantly affecting our shorelines. Coastal areas accounted for a mere 0.18%, while deeper offshore waters exceeding 200 meters held 1.12%. These figures show that most waste finds an unwelcome home on our beloved coastlines.

In terms of demographics, individuals born in the 2000s have shown the greatest contribution to microplastic waste both offshore and along our shorelines, accounting for 37.73% and 37.33% respectively. This age bracket also registers the highest percentage of microplastic involvement, whereas those born between 2010 and 2015 have the most significant share in macroplastic waste.

It’s worth noting that individuals born in the 1950s have demonstrated the least contribution to plastic waste. In fact, the data reveals that generally, plastic waste pollution reduces in older brackets of people, indicating an increased environmental awareness as people age.

Plastic Planet

The top 10 worst countries contributing to plastic waste in the ocean are primarily from Asia, with 6 out of 10 from Southeast Asia.  Overall, the top 10 countries account for 83.22% of the total plastic waste emitted globally. In 2019, the Philippines topped the list, emitting 356,371 metric tonnes of plastic waste into the ocean, followed by India with 126,513 metric tonnes. Predictions for 2050 show a concerning trend, with the Philippines expected to reach 2,410,328 million tons and India 855,675.10 tonnes.

Aside from the Philippines, India and Malaysia, the remaining countries make a relatively negligible impact. These countries collectively contribute less than 1% of waste each, emphasising their relatively minimal role in global ocean pollution. For instance, the UK ranks 55th out of 159 countries, but its contribution to global waste is merely 0.07%. Likewise, the behemoth nation of Russia is positioned 60th and contributes just 0.06%.

Why is this? Economic structures, waste management policies, and population densities all play a role in determining a country’s waste contribution. However, it’s important not to underestimate the potential impact of even seemingly minor contributors. Every bit of waste reduction counts towards safeguarding our oceans and planet.

Worst Offending Industries

Notably, packaging emerges as the dominant force, producing 146 million tonnes of plastic while generating 141 million tonnes of plastic waste, reflecting a 96.58% wastage rate. The sheer volume of packaging materials, often single-use plastics, contributes significantly to the accumulation of waste in oceans. On top of this, inadequate recycling infrastructure and improper waste management lead to a substantial portion of packaging ending up in marine environments.

Consumer and Institutional Products—which are typically products that are purchased by individuals for personal use or bought by organisations for operational purposes—and Other Sectors follow suit, exhibiting significant plastic waste generation rates of 88.10% and 80.85%, respectively. In contrast, industries like Industrial Machinery and Building and Construction demonstrate lower waste generation percentages at 33.33% and 20.00%, respectively. These sectors account for 302 million tonnes of plastic waste out of a total primary production of 407 million tonnes.

Steps Towards Sustainability

Industries hold the power to drive positive change. Implementing efficient recycling programs, optimising packaging materials, and adopting circular economy principles are crucial steps that industries can take to contribute less to waste. Moreover, fostering a culture of responsible consumption and educating employees about waste reduction can create a ripple effect throughout society. By aligning with forward-thinking partners like Direct365 and collectively pursuing waste reduction strategies, industries can play a pivotal role in shaping a greener, environmentally responsible future.

It’s clear: the escalating ocean waste crisis demands urgent attention, with projections indicating a substantial surge in waste by 2050 and a threefold increase in oceanic waste compared to 2000. And this devastating impact is right in front of our eyes, with 98.7% of plastic waste accumulating along shorelines.

It’s up to industries to step up and tackle this crisis head-on. They have the power to make a difference by embracing recycling programs, finding smarter packaging solutions, and spreading the word about waste reduction. At Direct365, our waste solutions provide practical ways to manage waste effectively. To equip your business with sustainable processes, consider exploring Direct365’s waste offerings. Together, we can collectively contribute to a cleaner, more sustainable future.

Methodology

The data was collected from Our World Online included:

  • Plastic emitted to the ocean (total)
  • Plastic emitted to the ocean (per capita)
  • Plastic emitted to the ocean (share of world total)
  • Probability of ocean pollution by country
  • Mismanaged plastic waste by country

Using this data as well as the fact that 80% of all ocean waste is plastic, we then made calculated assumptions on the total waste produced by each country.

Using forecasts on the rate of plastic waste we can also make assumptions on how bad waste will be, we then used this to help with the creative element of the campaign where we look at how beaches could look in the future.

Additional, we also collected statistics from Our World Online on the following:

  • Where ocean waste ends up (shoreline, coastline, offshore)
  • The main industries producing plastic waste
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