Turns Out We Ingest Around A Credit Card Worth Of Plastic Every Week
Plastic is not only polluting our oceans and waterways -- it's polluting our bodies as well.
People around the world are consuming on average 2000 tiny pieces of plastic every week, according to new research by the University of Newcastle.
That equates to five grams a week -- about the size of a credit card -- and adds up to more than 250 grams of plastic a year.
The research was commissioned by the World Wide Fund (WWF) for Nature, and analysed data from over 50 global studies on human ingestion of microplastics.
Water -- both bottled and tap -- was found to be the single largest source of plastic ingestion. Researchers found twice as much plastic in American and Indian water, than that of Europe or Indonesia.
Of the food sources tested, plastic was found most commonly in shellfish, beer and salt.
Material that ends up in the ocean eventually breaks down into micro-plastics, which ends up in the food chain as sea creatures ingest them.
The authors said the findings demonstrate the "universal" problem of plastic directly affecting people, as it is leaking into the environment.
To stop plastic entering human bodies, "urgent" action must be taken at government, business and consumer levels, said Marco Lambertini, WWF International Director.
“These findings must serve as a wake-up call to governments," he said.
"Not only are plastics polluting our oceans and waterways and killing marine life -- it’s in all of us and we can’t escape consuming plastics. Global action is urgent and essential to tackling this crisis."
WWF said single-use plastic bags and microbeads -- which are in the top 10 single use plastics which are worst for the environment -- should be banned by the Australian government.
“It’s alarming that plastic pollution has become so all-pervasive that we’re now ingesting five grams per week," said Richard Leck, WWF Australia Head of Oceans.
"This information must spur more urgent action to address the plastics crisis."
The WWF has started a petition calling for a legally-binding treaty on marine plastics pollution, which already has more than 500,000 signatures.
The treaty would establish national targets for pollution, as well as financial and technical aid to low-income countries to improve their waste management capacity.
The cost of plastic pollution is estimated to cost $11.5 billion to the ocean economy annually, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.