According to an American study, the United States of America is the largest producer of plastic waste worldwide.
The basics in brief
- American citizens produce an average of 130 kilograms of plastic waste annually.
In total, the United States generated about 42 million tons of plastic waste in 2016 — more than twice what China produced and more than all of the European Union countries combined, the authors of the expert report submitted to the US government wrote on Wednesday. The authors urged the US government to act.
According to the report, each American citizen produces an average of 130 kilograms of plastic waste annually, followed by South Korea with 88 kilograms annually. “The success of the miraculous invention of plastic in the 20th century has also led to a global flood of plastic waste,” Margaret Spring, chair of the expert panel convened by the US Congress, wrote. Global plastic production rose from 20 million tons in 1966 to 381 million tons in 2015 – a 20-fold increase in the span of half a century.
According to the report, an estimated eight million tons of plastic waste enters the environment annually. This corresponds to one garbage truck per minute sinking its cargo into the sea. At the current rate, the amount of plastic in the sea could reach 53 million tons per year by 2030, which would be about half the total weight of fish caught annually from the sea. One reason for this is that plastic recycling is not keeping pace with plastic production.
The report suggests a number of measures to deal with the crisis. It is especially important to produce less new plastic. Other proposed measures are the use of materials that degrade more quickly and are easier to recycle, reducing some single-use plastics and improving waste management, for example through techniques to remove microplastics from wastewater.
“This is the most comprehensive and most damning report on plastic pollution ever published,” said Judith Enk, president of the environment organization Beyond Plastic. She said that collecting garbage at sea will not save the oceans. Policymakers need to act urgently.
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