Predicted growth in plastic waste exceeds efforts to mitigate plastic pollution

Science. 2020 Sep 18;369(6510):1515-1518. doi: 10.1126/science.aba3656. Epub 2020 Sep 17.


Plastic pollution is a planetary threat, affecting nearly every marine and freshwater ecosystem globally. In response, multilevel mitigation strategies are being adopted but with a lack of quantitative assessment of how such strategies reduce plastic emissions. We assessed the impact of three broad management strategies, plastic waste reduction, waste management, and environmental recovery, at different levels of effort to estimate plastic emissions to 2030 for 173 countries. We estimate that 19 to 23 million metric tons, or 11%, of plastic waste generated globally in 2016 entered aquatic ecosystems. Considering the ambitious commitments currently set by governments, annual emissions may reach up to 53 million metric tons per year by 2030. To reduce emissions to a level well below this prediction, extraordinary efforts to transform the global plastics economy are needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Fresh Water / analysis*
  • Plastics / analysis*
  • Seawater / analysis*
  • Waste Management
  • Waste Products / analysis*
  • Water Pollution, Chemical / analysis*


  • Plastics
  • Waste Products