By 2050, the total amount of plastic in the ocean will outweigh that of fish if current trends continue, according to a new report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
Plastic production has grown steadily for 50 years, rising from 15 million tons in 1964 to 311 million tons in 2014, and is projected to quadruple by 2050, at which point there will be, by weight, more plastic than fish in the ocean.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is a charity that seeks to promote a circular economy, one in which industry produces little pollution or waste of resources.
The report estimates that most plastic packaging is only used once, and that the economy loses $80 billion–$120 billion annually as a result. By 2050, the plastics sector is expected to account for 20 percent of the world’s oil consumption.
The report was presented at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
“To move from insight to large-scale action, it is clear that no one actor can work on this alone. The public, private sector, and civil society all need to mobilize to capture the opportunity of the new circular plastics economy,” Dominic Waughray, senior director and head of Environmental Initiatives of the World Economic Forum, said in a statement.
To prevent this scenario, the foundation is proposing the creation of an independent organization that will establish a global protocol on plastics and coordinate this effort with stakeholders, from consumers to plastic manufacturers to regulatory agencies and more.