Plastic from take-out and ready-made meals litter rivers and oceans – but straws aren’t the worst offenders, a new study finds.
Scientists analyzed global inventories listing more than 12 million litter found in and around rivers, oceans, shores and seabed.
They discovered that eight of the 10 items listed were plastic.
And 44% of this plastic waste concerned take-out meals and drinks.
Single-use bottles, food containers and packaging, and plastic bags accounted for the largest share.
“It was shocking to find that bags, bottles, food containers and cutlery as well as packaging make up almost half of human-made objects globally,” said the director of the study, Dr. Carmen Morales of the University of Cadiz, Spain.
“We have found them in rivers, on the seabed, on shores and floating off our coasts.”
Measures to reduce plastic pollution have focused on drinking straws, cotton swabs and stirrers, which are relatively easy to replace.
Researchers say these actions are welcome, but they also recommend tackling plastic in take-out food and drink.
They say this type of plastic is often thrown outside after being used for a very short time and should be given priority.
Writing in the journal Nature Sustainability, they suggest three possible strategies for tackling the problem:
The study also highlighted the problem of waste from fishing gear, such as plastic nets and ropes, which was the biggest problem on the high seas. Thrown and thrown nets and lines can be fatal to people. marine fauna.
A second study by the University of Cadiz looked at the waste discharged into the ocean from rivers in Europe only.
Its estimates suggest that between 307 and 925 million floating garbage travels each year along European rivers to the sea.
Plastic made up around 80%, dominated by pieces of plastic as well as single-use plastics such as bottles, food packaging and bags.
Turkey produced the most waste (16%), followed by Italy (11%), the United Kingdom (8%), Spain (8%) and Greece (7%).
Lead researcher Dr Daniel Gonzalez said action is needed to encourage consumers to reduce their plastic consumption.
“We must act from the point of view of the citizen and also from the political side,” he said.
Follow Hélène on Twitter.