Breaking the Plastic Wave: Top Findings for Preventing Plastic Pollution

First-of-its-kind modeling analysis describes actions needed to stop plastic from entering the ocean

Empty bottles and other plastic waste cover a beach in Ouzai, Lebanon, on the outskirts of Beirut, in 2019. Diego Ibarr a Sanchez The New York Times/Redux

Plastic has become ubiquitous on store shelves and in our homes. From wrapped food and disposable bottles to microbeads in body washes, it’s used widely as packaging or in products because it’s versatile, cheap, and convenient. But this convenience comes with a price. Plastic waste is entering the ocean at a rate of about 11 million metric tons a year, where it is harming marine life and damaging habitats.

How did we get here? We have been producing vast quantities of plastic products and have had few measures in place to regulate their use or properly manage their disposal.

“Breaking the Plastic Wave,” a global analysis using first-of-its kind modeling, shows that we can cut annual flows of plastic into the ocean by about 80% in the next 20 years by applying existing solutions and technologies. No single solution can achieve this goal; rather, we break the plastic wave only by taking immediate, ambitious, and concerted actions.

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