Plastic Debris Reduction
$1 MILLION (Prize amount to be confirmed. Announcement expected for next year)
Plastic pollution is the accumulation of plastic objects and particles (e.g. plastic bottles, bags and microbeads) in the Earth’s environment that adversely affects wildlife, wildlife habitat, and humans. Plastics that act as pollutants are categorized into micro-, meso-, or macro debris, based on size. Plastics are inexpensive and durable, and as a result levels of plastic production by humans are high. However, the chemical structure of most plastics renders them resistant to many natural processes of degradation and as a result they are slow to degrade. Together, these two factors have led to a high prominence of plastic pollution in the environment, including oceans threatening marine life.
Plastic pollution can afflict land, waterways and oceans. It is estimated that 1.1 to 8.8 million tonnes of plastic waste enters the ocean from coastal communities each year. It is estimated that there is a stock of 86 million tons of plastic marine debris in the worldwide ocean as of the end of 2013, with an assumption that 1.4% of global plastics produced from 1950 to 2013 has entered the ocean and has accumulated there. Living organisms, particularly marine animals, can be harmed either by mechanical effects, such as entanglement in plastic objects, problems related to ingestion of plastic waste, or through exposure to chemicals within plastics that interfere with their physiology. Effects on humans include disruption of various hormonal mechanisms.
As of 2018, about 380 million tonnes of plastic is produced worldwide each year. From the 1950s up to 2018, an estimated 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced worldwide, of which an estimated 9% has been recycled and reutilized.
Plastic debris recycling and disposal became a major challenge to our society whose effects are seriously threatening our ecosystem.