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How much plastic really ends up in the sea?

Did you know that every year an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic are thrown into the ocean?

Researchers at the University of Cape Town (UCT) are now conducting a series of experiments to estimate the proportion of litter coming out of urban catchment areas that washes up on beaches.

Prof Peter Ryan says there's a huge discrepancy in the numbers relating to the amount of plastic in the ocean and how much leaks from land into the sea.

It's not a small mismatch... the best estimate of how much is going into the sea each year is between 5-million and 12-million tonnes and yet the amount floating at sea is only about 250,000 tonnes.

Prof Peter Ryan, Director - FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at UCT

We just don't know where it's gone and that's the aim of this experiment, to see what proportion is being stranded back on our beaches.

Prof Peter Ryan, Director - FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at UCT

Prof Ryans experiment will entail releasing labelled pieces of plastic and then searching for them along nearby beaches.

Members of the public are being asked to help with the study by reporting the findings of any of these items.

Listen to the full interview to find out how you can help with the experiment:


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