The US and UK are far more responsible for polluting the world's oceans with plastic waste, according to a paper published in the journal Science Advances. The paper looked at the countries contributing to coastal plastic pollution, the US could rank as high as third in the world.
The senior director of the nonprofit Ocean Conservancy's Trash Free Seas program and co-author of the paper, Nick Mallos, said that plastic pollution globally is at crisis level.
The US and UK produce more plastic waste per person than any other major countries, according to new research.
The latest available data from 2016 shows that more than half of the plastic collected for recycling in the US was shipped abroad. The collected plastic waste was shipped to countries which are already struggling to manage plastic waste effectively. The researchers further added that years of exporting had masked the US's enormous contribution to plastic pollution.
Mallos also pointed out that the US only constitutes 4 per cent of the total world's population, yet it contributes up to 17 per cent of the total plastic waste.
The plastic waste has polluted the whole planet and has not left anything untouched. It is also known to harm wildlife. One of the major concerns is related to the growing quantity of microplastics that people consume with food and water.
A study conducted by a group of scientists in September found that even if all currently feasible measures are taken to cut plastic pollution, it would fall by only 40 per cent. The study concluded that coordinated global action is urgently needed to reduce plastic consumption and promote the idea of reuse, waste collection, and recycling.
In 2018, China banned the import of plastic waste. Post that, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, India and Indonesia have followed with their own restrictions.
A Guardian investigation in 2019 found that US plastic is now being sent to some of the world's poorest countries, including Bangladesh, Laos, Ethiopia and Senegal, where labour is cheap and environmental regulation limited.
The latest study published in the journal Science Advances used World Bank data on waste generation in 217 countries. It focused on the US and on data related to littering and illegal dumping within the country and on contamination caused by exported plastic.
The researchers found out that the US produced the most plastic waste by World Bank reckoning, at 34,000 kg in 2016. However, the total increased to 42,000 kg when the additional data was considered.
Among the 20 nations with the highest total plastic waste production, the UK was ranked second to the US per capita. It was followed by South Korea and Germany.
As per estimates about each country's plastic waste which ends up in the oceans, Indonesia and India ranked highest. Depending on the assumptions made about waste leakage into the environment, the US ranked between third and eleventh.
Mallos said that the solution has to start at home and on a collective level, single-use plastics use should be reduced as well as recycling rates also need to be improved.
Unless the countries start to clean up the garbage collection, all waste will end in landfills, and it will increase plastic pollution.