Humans have long been disposing of waste into the ocean, which in turn, negatively affects marine life and the environment as a whole.
The gravity of this problem is all the more highlighted in a new study that reveals the amount of plastic trash that goes into the world's waters.
For a new study published in the journal Science on Feb. 13, University of Georgia assistant engineering professor Jenna Jambeck and colleagues looked at the densities of coastal population, plastic consumption and waste-handling practices, and were able to calculate that in 2010 countries have disposed of some 8 million tons of plastic in the ocean.
"Think of five bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world," Jambeck said at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in California, giving an idea of the amount of plastic being thrown into the ocean per year.
What's worse is that the amount of plastic that is being thrown into the waters is on track to increase by 10 times in the next decade unless the world could come up with a feasible way to improve the collection and management of garbage.
Many consumer goods notably use plastic products, and the production of plastic has steadily increased since it was placed into widespread use 50 years ago. In 2012, 288 million tons of plastic were produced worldwide.
"We calculate that 275 million metric tons (MT) of plastic waste was generated in 192 coastal countries in 2010, with 4.8 to 12.7 million MT entering the ocean," the researchers wrote in their study. "Without waste management infrastructure improvements, the cumulative quantity of plastic waste available to enter the ocean from land is predicted to increase by an order of magnitude by 2025."
The study also identified the top countries responsible for the ocean-bound trash. Dumping 40,000 to 110,000 metric tons of plastic waste, the United States is ranked the 20th worst polluter.
Although the country has a highly developed garbage collection system, it still made it to the top 20 because of its large and dense coastal population. It is also a rich nation and thus is a big consumer of products.
China, the most populous country in the world, made it to the number one spot of the top countries disposing of plastic waste into oceans. The other top sources of the plastic waste in oceans include Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Egypt and Nigeria.