A top politician has issued a stark warning that the amount of trash entering oceans will triple by 2040, potentially massively adding to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch despite it already being three times the size of France.
Australia’s environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, issued a warning in the country’s parliament this week, saying that the world is in a critical period where it needs to get its act together or suffer the devastating consequences.
“If we don't… the amount of plastic entering the ocean will triple by 2040 and plastic in the ocean will outweigh fish by 2050,”she told the Mail.
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She spoke of the damage to the environment caused by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a massive swathe of the ocean that has been littered with the world’s refuse.
The massive pile of garbage takes up 1.6 million square kilometres (600,000 square miles) of the Pacific Ocean, and has been linked to deep threats to the ocean’s ecosystem.
“Seabirds are ingesting bottle caps, clothes pegs and pen lids. Scientists have found dead chicks with 200 pieces of plastic in their digestive system,” the minister said.
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The patch is so big that it is nearly impossible to properly count the amount of harmful rubbish in the ocean.
While rubbish of all kinds is found in the patch, most of it is made up of plastic.
The vast majority of the plastic found in the patch are microplastics, which despite making up only 8% of the patch’s total mass, makes up and estimated 94% of the individual pieces of plastic.
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“Seabirds and marine life like turtles are starving because their guts are full with plastic or choking or drowning when tangled up in plastic waste like discarded fishing nets,” Plibersek said.
She added that the patch has slowly been pushing harmful waste towards Australia, raising deep concerns about the environmental impact it is having.
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“Every year, lost or abandoned fishing gear drifts into Australia's northern waters.”
She added that she hopes to see a "plastic free Pacific" in her lifetime, and is negotiating a global plastics treaty to end pollution by 2040.
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