Flotsam – great word, terrible actual thing.
Case in point: by the year 2050, there will be more flotsam – plastic garbage, specifically – occupying our oceans than living, breathing aquatic life.
This grim forecast comes from a study conducted by the World Economic Forum and Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which says the quantity of plastic waste floating in the world’s ocean will outweigh all the fish in the sea put together within the next 34 years.
So, how did we get here? Dumping between 4.8 million and 12.7 million metric tons of plastic into the sea each and every year for an extended period of time is certainly a contributing factor.
“Using the average density of uncompacted plastic waste, 8 million metric tons — the midpoint of our estimate — would cover an area 34 times the size of Manhattan ankle-deep in plastic waste,” says Roland Geyer, who’s done extensive work in measuring how closely our most precious of resources resembles a toilet.
If that’s not bad enough, things are only going to get worse according to the WEF report. The low price of oil is discouraging recycling and reclamation efforts; 95 per cent of plastic is “lost to the economy” after a single use.
While a remedy seems simple enough – stop tossing inorganic shit in the ocean – we can’t forget there are billionaires’ profits at stake, so a more economically feasible solution needs to be considered. “A major wave of innovation with benefits for the entire supply chain,” as McKinsey Center for Business and Environment expert Martin R. Stuchtey calls it. The problem is innovation takes time, and we have less than 35 years before reaching plastic-to-fish equilibrium.
To that end, we could certainly use some more teens with big ideas.