Up to 10 times more plastic in the world's oceans than previously feared

17 December 2015 • Written by Sophia Heath

There could be up to ten times more plastic in the oceans than had previously been estimated according to fresh research.

A new study, led by climate scientist Erik van Sebille at London’s Imperial College and researchers from non-profit group 5 Gyres, has found that between 15 trillion and 51 trillions pieces of plastic could be in the world’s oceans — at least three times more than previously thought.

Plastic waste is considered to be one of the biggest threats to the world’s oceans and is thought to be responsible for killing over one million seabirds and more than 100,000 marine mammals every year.

The scientists used data collected from the past 40 years and computer programming to try and create a global estimate for the severity of the problem.

The study found that in 2014 there was estimated to be between 93 and 236 thousand metric tons of micro plastic particles in the ocean.

“These estimates are larger than previous global estimates, but vary widely because of the scarcity of data in most of the world's oceans, differences in model formulations, and fundamental knowledge gaps in the sources, transformations and fates of microplastics in the ocean,” the study explained.

The research only focused on microplastics that could be captured by trawling nets pulled along the ocean surface and therefore does not account for plastic that has sunk to the ocean floor or been ingested by marine life.

Scientists from around the world are trying to find a solution to plastic waste. A 21-year-old Swedish entrepreneur has invented plastic barriers, which will help oceans 'clean themselves'. It is hoped that the giant barricades, which use ocean currents to help trap rubbish, will be trialled off the coast of Japan next year.

Several fashion brands are also trying to use ocean rubbish to create clothing ranges. Adidas recently revealed a prototype trainer made almost entirely from ocean rubbish.

Sponsored listings