Every year, more than 8 million metric tons of plastic makes its way to the ocean, according to research cited by Science Magazine.
Who is responsible for most of this waste?
If you guessed the U.S., you guessed wrong.
According to Ocean Conservancy, a U.S. non-profit, 60 percent of the plastic that’s dumped into sea comes from five Asian nations: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
In these five countries, only 40 percent of waste is properly collected. Throughout Asia, most waste piles up in communal dumps where bits of trash are pulled up by winds and cast into the ocean. Oftentimes, legitimate garbage dump sites are purposely built near rivers that flow into the ocean.
“Waste will intermittently be carried away by heavy rains or current, refreshing the capacity of the dump to receive more waste,” reads a report by Ocean Conservancy.
In some of these five countries, garbage-disposal workers have been known to cut corners and drop waste on illegal dump sites such as roadsides.
Research suggests that in the Philippines, 90 percent of illegally dumped plastic ends up in the ocean. According to Ocean Conservancy, about 1 million metric tons of illegally dumped plastic from the five Asian nations surveyed makes it out to sea.
The world’s oceans are seeing more and more gyres — masses of floating garbage that stretch for miles along the sea.
But that’s just the tip of the ice berg.
Ocean Conservancy reports these sites account for just 5 percent of the trash in the ocean. The rest is submerged underwater devastating marine life and bringing about environmental hazards.
“At this rate, we would expect nearly one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish in our oceans by 2025 — an unthinkable number with drastic economic and environmental consequences,” says Nicholas Mallos, director of Ocean Conservancy’s marine debris program.
The unlikely heroes in this situation, however small their contributions may be, are garbage pickers.
Braving disease, these people plunge into gyres to collect plastic which they then sell to recyclers for small sums.
Nicholas Mallos, director of Ocean Conservancy’s marine debris program, is calling on the source to take a stand.
Although Mallos agrees corporations aren’t “making plastic with the intent of it ending up in the ocean,” he urges them to use their “world-class logistics, financing, project management and marketing capabilities” to help solve the problem..