There's Much Less Plastic In Oceans Than Assumed, Dutch Researchers Claim

August 8, 2023

A recent study conducted by Dutch researchers challenges previous assumptions about the extent of plastic pollution in the world's oceans, revealing that the amount of plastic present is much lower than previously estimated.

ocean has less plastic than told
Image by Chaiyan Anuwatmongkolchai

Estimates range from 75 million tons to 200 million tons of plastic waste floating in the oceans. But according to researchers at Utrecht University, the actual amount is closer to 3 million tons, Trouw reports.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, at least 14 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year.

However, based on measurements at 20,000 sites across the world, Utrecht University oceanologist Mikeal Kaandorp and his team claim 500,000 tons is much more likely.

According to them, rivers, in particular, bring much less plastic to the ocean than previously thought. Instead, much more plastic remains in the rivers than previous estimations.

"And what is in the ocean remains floating in large pieces for much longer. There are far fewer microplastics in the water than previously thought," Kraandorp told Trouw.

Biologist Merijn Tinga is "cautiously optimistic" about the good news.

"If the plastic soup is smaller than thought, it is a hopeful sign. But even if it's a hundred times smaller it is still far too much," he told the paper.

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