September 7, 2023

Dear newsrooms,

We get it. Plastic pollution doesn’t excite you. It’s a tired old story your readers already know: we produce too much, throw it away too quickly, don’t know how to manage our waste and end up polluting everything on the planet.

It doesn't sell papers and won't get you clicks.

So when another ocean plastic study came out last month - with the catchy title 'Global mass of buoyant marine plastics dominated by large long-lived debris' - you probably weren’t holding your front page. Or any page for that matter.

And yet, around 7th August many of you reported on the study’s findings. It made it to the mainstream news, from Dutch national newspapers to The New York Times.

The message you sent into the world?

“Less plastic in the ocean and easier to clean.”

Great news. Except, that wasn't the full story.

Yes, the new study’s estimate of the total amount of plastic in our oceans (3.2 million tons) is lower than estimates from previous studies (75 to 150 million tons).

And yes, the researchers mention the large pieces of plastic that float near the surface of the ocean are easier to clean up than smaller pieces.

But what your good news headlines failed to mention, is that there’re still a whopping 3.2 million tonnes of plastic polluting our oceans.

AND that the annual amount of plastic waste we trash our oceans with grows by around 4% each year.

AND stays there for longer, floating near the surface in large pieces. Which means the 3.2 million tonnes could double within the next twenty years.

AND that this exponential growth of plastic trash 'means a likely increasing negative impact of marine plastic pollution on the ecosystems in the future’, according to the researchers.

AND that we're only talking about plastic that has reached our oceans, not to mention all the plastic waste polluting our lands, air and other waters (57 to 69 kilo tonnes is flowing through our rivers each year).

So no, it's NOT great news. And you knew it.

Because you covered (some of) those facts in the article behind the headline. But of course - and don't shoot the messenger - not everyone will take the time to read that.

Instead, they'll read the headline and go about their day thinking the plastic pollution problem isn't so bad. Or worse, that researchers don't know what they're talking about.

Misleading headlines aren't helpful when facing global crises. When, as the UN puts it nicely: 'plastic pollution is changing habitats and natural processes, reducing ecosystems' ability to adapt to climate change, directly affecting millions of people's livelihoods, food production and social well-being.

With the SDG Summit, Plastic Treaty negotiations and UN Climate Change Conference coming up, here's our request to you:

Please choose the climate over clicks and write headlines reflecting reality.

Thanks, Dopper

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