People, Environment

Asia's Plastic Waste Choking Oceans

Asia's Plastic Waste  Choking OceansAsia's Plastic Waste  Choking Oceans

Every year, millions of tons of plastics are produced and trashed, with some ending up in the sea, and gobbled up by fish. 

Even though countries don’t report on how much plastic they are flushing, a recent study suggests that around 86% of the plastic running through rivers was coming from a single continent—Asia.

An estimated 1.27 to 2.66 million tons of plastic waste enters rivers every year, around one-fifth of the total plastic in the sea from coastal populations worldwide, a study published in Nature on June 7 was cited by Quartz.

Researchers from Ocean Cleanup, a Netherlands-based foundation working to extract plastic from the sea, found that a majority of the inputs are from Asian countries like China, Indonesia and Myanmar.

Seven of the top 20 rivers from all continents, which originate or pass through China’s major cities, are contributing around two-thirds (67%) of plastic released through rivers into the oceans. 

Yangtze River that runs through Shanghai, one of China’s most populous areas, tops the list, followed by Ganges, a trans-boundary river that runs through northern India and Bangladesh. 

Next is Xi River, the western tributary of Pearl River, a major water source for the 100 million people residing in Guangdong Province, China’s most populous province.

Although Asia generates relatively little waste per person, especially compared to the consumer-oriented West, the total waste generated by the continent adds up. China, for example, manufactured the most plastic products—around 74.7 tons—in 2015, according to the 2016 report by Plastics Europe, a trade association that tracks the plastics industry. It’s followed by 49.8 tons from Canada, Mexico, and the US combined.

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