In three decades, the world's oceans will contain more discarded plastic than fish when measured by weight, researchers say.
The shocking finding was revealed in a newly released Ellen MacArthur Foundation report that investigates the inefficiency of the world's plastic economy.
While researchers acknowledge that plastic is integral to everyday life, they underscore the urgent need to reduce plastic waste. Most plastic packaging products are used only once before they are thrown away, resulting in annual economic losses of up to $120 billion.
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Furthermore, plastic production is notoriously resource-intensive, and could consume 20 percent of all oil produced by 2050.
The plastic economy currently employs a largely linear flow, with disposable plastics having a definitive lifecycle that oftentimes ends in the world's oceans and landfills, where they degrade slowly and harm wildlife.
According to nonprofit conservation organization Keep America Beautiful, Americans produced 30 million tons of plastic products in 2009, only 2 million tons of which was recovered.
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The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has long supported the notion of circular economy, an economic system that produces no waste, instead reducing resource consumption and finding innovative ways to reuse and recycle materials such as plastic.
This report demonstrates the importance of triggering a revolution in the plastics industrial ecosystem and is a first step to showing how to transform the way plastics move through our economy," Dominic Waughray, of the World Economic Forum, says in a news release.
"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 in order to capture the opportunity of the new circular plastics economy."
This originally appeared on DSCOVRD.