Against the background of the coronavirus, as of August, more than 8 million tons of plastic waste were produced. Moreover, 25 thousand tons of that amount have already ended up in the oceans, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
For these calculations, researchers at the University of California (US) and the Nanjing University (China) used a model that reproduces the spread of plastic waste (face masks, test kits, hospital waste) in the aquatic environment in 193 countries, and how it decomposes in sunlight and under the influence of plankton, floats on the surface of the oceans, and descends to their depths.
It turned out that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an additional 8.6 million tons of plastic waste. Hospitals account for 87.4% of all this waste. The use of disposable masks is 7.6%, and the test kits—0.3%. The largest amount of—the 25,900 tons of—garbage was brought to the ocean by rivers, 73% of which flow in Asia. The three main polluters are the Shatt al-Arab, Indus, and Yangtze Rivers.
Researchers warn that in 3 to 5 years, most of the current garbage in the oceans will end up on the beaches, or sink to the bottom of the oceans. At the same time, some of it will remain in the depths of the oceans, and of particular concern to researchers—in the Arctic Ocean where a near-polar zone of plastic accumulation may form by the year 2025.