Plastic Trash In The Ocean: How Much Is There? [Video]

Plastic trash in the ocean: there’s a lot of it, right? We’ve seen Chris Jordan’s photographs from Midway, and the various pics from Asian and African beaches covered with bottles, bags, and other washed-up waste. We’ve heard about “garbage gyres.” But a number that we can wrap our heads around in terms of the sheer amount of plastic floating around? I certainly haven’t seen one… at least until this morning.

As you’ll see in the video above, Dr. Marcus Eriksen of the Five Gyres Institute led a team of scientists in attempting to quantify all of that plastic,. Given the nature of the ocean environment, it wasn’t easy; as I understood it, the number they arrived it is really just the tip of the iceberg. Furthermore, the ocean itself, and the gyres to which the trash gravitates, grinds that plastic down into smaller and smaller pieces that get into more and more species. We’re literally choking off life in the oceans.

As the video, as well as the Container Recycling Institute, make clear, there’s a pretty simple alternative to pumping the oceans full of plastic: the 5 cent deposit. Yep, this long-existing model of producer responsibility “would cut beverage container litter in half,” according to CRI.

Published at PLOS ONE, the paper by Eriksen and his colleagues is freely available. If you read the full paper (or even if you don’t make it all the way through), come back and share your thoughts with us. Do you think a simple bottle deposit system would really make a difference with this volume of trash? What other practices would we need to incorporate into plastics manufacturng?

About the Author

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg is the founder and editor of sustainablog. You can keep up with all of his writing at Facebook, and at