Five Million Plastic Wastes Pollute World’s Oceans, Study Finds

March 1, 2015

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. pollute /pəˈlut/ (v.) – to fill something with wastes and harmful chemicals
Example: The oil spill from the ship polluted the sea.

2. litter /ˈlɪt ər/ (n.) – refers to trash like papers and cans
Example: The beach was full of litter after the party.

3. expedition /ˌɛk spɪˈdɪʃ ən/ (n.) – a long trip done for a specific purpose
Example: The scientists went on a ship expedition for a study.

4. current /ˈkɜr ənt/ (n.) – movement or flow of water in a particular direction
Example: The ocean current made it hard for him to swim.

5. buoyancy /ˈbɔɪ ən si/ (n.) – the ability or capacity to float on water
Example: Objects have better buoyancy in salt water than in fresh water.


Read the text below.
A recent study shows how the world’s oceans are now severely polluted by plastics.

In the study published in the Public Library of Science (PLOS), researchers from the 5 Gyres Institute warned that plastic litter in the ocean has amounted to 5.25 trillion, with the weight of 269,000 tons. Using a computer-generated ocean model, the nonprofit group presented estimates of the garbage present in different ocean regions. The data were gathered from 24 expeditions between 2007 and 2013 across the gyres or rotating ocean currents.

Of the plastic pieces collected, 92% belonged to the category microplastic—particles with sizes similar to sand grains—found in garbage patches that form near the major ocean gyres. Large plastic wastes degrade into microplastics as they get shredded by the gyres’ rotating current.

Researchers cited factors causing faster degradation of plastic in the ocean, which includes ultraviolet radiation from sunlight and decreased ocean buoyancy. The study found that plastic litter usually comes from populated coastlines and shipping vessels.

Microplastics can absorb chemical pollutants that can be poisonous for the marine ecosystem. Aside from the microplastics, other wastes like abandoned fishing nets can be harmful as it can catch and kill sea creatures. Fish that eat plastic pieces in the ocean can have damaged digestive tracts as well. Researchers found some fish that live in the deeper part of the ocean—such as lantern fish—had particles of plastics in their stomachs.

In an earlier study, scientists made a global map to present areas polluted by plastic wastes and found only 35,000 tons of microplastics.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         What do you think will happen if the ocean pollution worsens?
·         How will the study help solve the problem on ocean pollution?

Discussion B

·         Why do you think some people fail to properly dispose wastes?
·         How would you contribute in lessening garbage pollution?

March 1, 2015