A new report from the World Economic Forum has revealed that due to the disposal of so much non-biodegradable materials into the ocean, plastic will account for more volume than fish.

This startling estimate is drawn from a trend of increasing disposal of non-recyclable materials into the ocean. Currently, 150 million tonnes of plastic is estimated to be in the ocean with a rapid rate of growth of 4.8% per year while the fish population remains stagnant. Biological Sciences applicants should consider the ways in which habitat degradation is different for sea and land-based animals and at which rates each is occurring.

Notably, the plastic comes predominantly from Asia, with China, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam accounting for 60% of all plastic in global waters. These countries do not have formal recycling policies and instead recycle through “waste pickers” – people who search rubbish piles to find reusable items to sell for cash. Geography applicants should consider how formalised recycling policies on individual-levels impact carbon footprints, versus countries who have informal systems such as those mentioned above.

These ‘waste pickers’ are informal labourers who mitigate the rubbish output of these countries and are one form of incentivised recycling. HSPS applicants should think about the relationship between monetarily incentivised recycling and morally incentivised recycling, particularly Germany’s pfandflaschenautomat system in contrast to duty-based Anglo-American systems.

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