In brief

Plastic pollution could triple by 2040

Single-use plastics destroy our oceans
Brian Yurasits / Unsplash

A study carried out by seventeen international experts outlines how plastic pollution will continue to multiply, presenting several strategies that could help curb the grave problem by 2040.


Plastic. The scourge of the 21st century. Every year, 40 million tonnes of plastic waste ends up in the environment, 11 million of which goes straight into oceans and rivers. Nearly 700 marine species and around 50 freshwater species ingest microplastics or become trapped in large bits of waste annually. According to a study recently published in the journal Science, 1.3 billion tonnes of plastics could be released into the environment if nothing is done.

Plastic pollution could be reduced by 80%

The billions of tonnes we see in the oceans today do not bode well. However, the report, entitled “Breaking the Plastic Wave”, also presents several strategies to reduce this pollution on a global scale within the next 20 years. By implementing measures in recycling, reducing plastic production and using more environmentally friendly materials, the volume of plastic could be reduced by up to 80%.

Current political commitments, such as the ban on single-use plastics, would only reduce plastic pollution by 7%. “There will always be plastic. The aim is not to ban it completely but to set up collection and recycling systems that are up to the task,” Julien Boucher, director of Environmental Action (EA) and co-author of the study, told Lib├ęration. It presents a challenge that will be all the more complex to take on while COVID-19 continues to spread, a period which itself has been marked by increased use of single-use plastics.