Global plastic pollution is becoming more and more severe. According to a report by the German weekly “Focus”, in recent years, plastic particles have been found in samples collected all over the world: from the Arctic to rivers and deep seas.
Mount Everest, the top of the world, has also been found to have plastic particles. The US has long accused developing countries of being the main emitters of plastic pollution. The waste approach has overshadowed the US “main contribution” to the plastic pollution crisis. If you include the export of plastic waste and the latest statistics on illegal landfills and waste, the US is one of the most serious sources of plastic pollution in the global coastal and marine environment, ranking third in the world.
The research report published by Science Advances clearly states that the US blames Asian countries for the problem of plastic waste pollution, yet they are the world’s largest producer of plastic waste. The report was written in collaboration with scholars from the American association for marine education, the University of Georgia and the National geographic association.
The Comprehensive Assessment Study on global plastic waste issues, published in 2015, stated that the top five countries that produce the most plastic waste are China, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand.
However, the latest report believes the 2015 study ignored possible mismanagement of waste after it was exported to another country for recycling.
The research report also revised the 2015 claim that China is the world’s largest emitter of marine plastic waste.
The latest research report published by Science advances calculated the total amount of plastic waste generated by countries around the world in 2016 based on waste generation and characteristic data from 217 countries and regions reported by the World Bank.
Global plastic production in 2016 was 422 million tons, an increase of 26% compared to 2010; the percentage of plastic in solid waste increased from 10% in 2010 to 12%; in 2016, the global production of plastic waste reached 242 million tons.
The report clearly states that in 2016 the United States was the country that produced the largest amount of plastic waste (42 million tons) of all countries and also the annual per capita production of plastic waste (130 kg). ranked first.
The 28 EU countries in second place produce 54.56 kilograms of plastic waste per capita per year, which is only half that of the US, while India is in third place. In 2016, the production of plastic waste in China (21.6 million tons) ranked fourth, half that of the US, but the annual per capita production of plastic waste was only (15.67 kg ), which was only 12% of that of the US. Nick Mallos, senior director of the Garbage-Free ocean program of the Marine conservation organization, said: “Plastic waste produced in the US is the most numerous of all countries, but we have not considered the problem, we have outsourced it to of development. And we are making a heavy contribution to the plastic crisis in the oceans ».
In terms of garbage, illegal dumping of garbage and other improperly managed waste products on the coast, the US ranks third among coastal countries and is the leading cause of coastal pollution in the world.
The study also said the US collected 3.91 million tons of plastic in 2016, more than half of which was shipped overseas and exported 1.99 million tons of plastic waste to 89 trading partners. “More than 88% of plastic waste is exported to countries that cannot properly manage and dispose of these plastics due to insufficient resources.” Many of this exported plastic waste cannot be reused, which ultimately pollutes the local environment.
One of the authors of the research report, Professor of Oceanography, Cara Lavender Law, he said: “For many years, many of the plastic products we throw in the trash can be exported to countries where it is difficult to manage your trash for recycling. Not to mention the large amount of plastic shipped from the US. Considering how much of our plastic waste is actually non-recyclable because of low value, contaminated or difficult to dispose of, it is not surprising that a lot of plastic will end up polluting the environment ».
Relevant data show that 5% of plastic waste generated in the US is illegally discarded or dumped due to “improper handling” or cannot be disposed of properly after being transported to other countries.
The report points out that it appears that only 5% are “mismanaged”, but considering the total amount of plastic waste, this figure cannot be ignored.
It must also be said that eight million tons of plastic enters the oceans every year, which equates to a load of plastic that is poured into the sea every minute.
Such plastic products have gone on a long and destructive journey from the moment they entered the sea. Winnie Liu, a senior official with the PEW Charitable Trust’s Marine Plastics Prevention Project, said: “Plastics that enter the seas will be carried away by ocean currents. They are found all over the world, including in the borders of Antarctica and the deepest place on earth. They can be found in the Mariana Trench. As they drift along with the currents, they will penetrate the ecosystem and cause immeasurable damage to marine life. ‘
Despite the gravity of this problem, global plastic production continues, leading to growing threats to the seas. What makes the ocean so vulnerable to plastic pollution
How can we control plastic entering the ocean
What is wrong with plastic
Our daily life can hardly avoid plastic. From food packaging to toiletries, clothing, furniture, computers and cars, plastics and everywhere. Its durability makes it difficult to biodegrade. In a nutshell it can be compared to the long atomic decay.
Depending on the type, some plastics can take decades or even millions of years to decompose in landfills. Therefore, unless it is incinerated (which in turn causes pollution), virtually all of the plastics we have produced so far still exist in the world and once they enter the ocean, their impact will last for hundreds of years.
Where does the waste come from
The world produces more than 300 million tons of plastic waste every year, and this number is still growing. Only 9% of these are recycled. The rest is incinerated or discarded. Most of the plastic waste discarded and landfilled. The reason for this is that half of the plastics we produce and disposable plastics, that is, are all plastic products such as straws, plastic bags and water bottles that are thrown away after they are used.
And precisely because disposable plastics are easy to produce and discard, they lead to a continuous increase in the amount of waste entering landfills, which inevitably increases the amount of plastic waste that pollutes the environment.
Why the impact of plastic on the ocean is so severe
The vast and deep ocean is like a holding tank for pollutants, which collects toxic material from all over the world. In addition to the cargo dropped from ships, plastic fishing nets and longline lines (called “ghost fishing gear”) are also a major source of plastic waste in the ocean, accounting for around 10%. In addition, expanded polystyrene used in aquaculture to make cages is also one of the sources of marine plastic pollution.
But the vast majority of marine debris comes from the land. Extreme weather and strong winds sweep litter along the coast, which is quickly greeted by the tide. The ocean is also the final destination of thousands of rivers, carrying large amounts of waste from landfills, and eventually sinking it into the sea.
Once the plastic waste enters the ocean, it is broken down into particles less than 5mm in diameter, called microplastics, due to the harsh conditions and endless ocean motion.
This form of plastic will spread deeper and deeper into the ocean, invade more biological habitats, and actually cannot be recycled at all. What will happen to us if thousands of marine animals become entangled in plastic waste every year, in particular “ghost fishing gear”.
Furthermore, the damage that marine life suffers from ingesting plastic is less evident: sea birds, sea turtles , fish and whales often mistake plastic waste for food because their color and shape are similar to their prey. In the end we eat them. And once we ingest these toxic particles, our organs will be damaged, making us more susceptible to disease, and our fertility will also change, with great risks of genetic mutations.

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