The ocean plastic debris situation has been worsening fast the last few decades. There are mounds of plastic floating around, for starters, and the problem only seems to be getting worse.
One of the biggest areas is the Great Pacific garbage patch, which was first discovered in the 1990s, is now twice the size of the state of Texas. It is floating between Hawaii and California and is over 600,000 square miles.
A great majority of plastics that pollute this and other patches include the ones with use in our daily life such as plastic water bottles, plastic bags, food wrappers, beverage cans, and drinking straws. As you can see a lot of pollutants come from one-time use plastics or plastics we can easily avoid.
If the majority of people do not stop using one-time use plastic and things keep going as they have, the outcome is bleak.
It has been predicted that by “2025 the ocean could contain one ton of plastic for every three tons of finfish.”
It has also been reported by the Ocean Conservancy organization that over half of the ocean plastic pollution (55-60%) comes from just five countries:
- The Philippines
(While President Donald Trump called out China and Japan to be the two biggest offenders, Japan is not on this list at all).
The five countries are followed by Sri Lanka, Egypt, Malaysia, Nigeria, Bangladesh, South Africa, India, Algeria, Turkey, Pakistan, Brazil, Burma, Morocco, and North Korea.
The United States ranks number 20 in mismanaging plastic waste.
In total, 90% of all plastics that pollute the oceans come from just 10 rivers that are surrounded by high-population areas. Eight of these rivers are in Asia (study). The very first river on this list is the Yangtze, Asia’s longest river that is home to on third of China’s population. This and other rivers have horrible waste management processes.
China and other four top countries on the waste mismanagement list do not have good waste-management programs in place while simultaneously having growing consumer product manufacturing demands. These two facts are a recipe for disaster.
As the economy in these countries grows, people have more money to spend on bottled water and Coca Cola cans, yet no good ways to recycle them. Only 40 percent of garbage from these countries is properly collected.
In countries where people have less money plastic pollution can be even more severe, as being unable to afford large quantities of any product, people rely on buying everything in tiny bottles like shampoos and instant noodles. While cheaper for the consumer, this means even more plastic for the planet.
Focusing on waste reduction in these five countries would cost $5 billion a year, but could produce a significant investment return on the economy in the long run.
President Donald Trump just signed the “Save Our Seas Act” sponsored by Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan, which hopes to relieve part of the problem— by helping to clean up eight million tons of ocean debris.
“Marine debris is entirely preventable, but more than eight million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans each year, harming our coastal economies, endangering marine life, destroying important marine habitat, propagating invasive species, and creating hazardous conditions for the maritime industry,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici.
The bill extends the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program by five years to help different governmental organizations work together on the problem.
While this bill cannot do everything, it is an important step in the right direction according to various environmental groups.