About eight million tonnes of plastic waste are dumped into the world’s oceans every year, the equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic being tipped into the sea every minute of every day.
More than half comes from five Asian countries: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, according to a 2015 Ocean Conservancy report.
They are among the fastest growing economies in Asia, where much of the world’s plastic is produced, consumed and discarded, where waste management is inadequate.
But it is not just an issue of aesthetics, plastics are killing marine life. Last week a whale died in southern Thailand with 80 plastic bags in its stomach, an increasingly common sight alongside dead seabirds and turtles gorged on plastic and washed ashore.
Experts warn the greatest threat might be invisible.
Microplastics, tiny shards that easily soak up toxins after breaking off from larger plastic pieces – have been found in tap water, ground water and inside fish that millions of people eat across Asia every day.
Scientists still do not fully understand the health effects of consuming microplastics.
“We’re conducting a global experiment with no sense of where we’re heading with this whole thing,” Carl Gustaf Lundin, head of the global marine and polar programme at the International Union for Conservation of Nature, told AFP.
More plastic than fish by 2050
Rubbish collection is low in rural Vietnam as elsewhere in Asia, one of the main reasons why so much plastic ends up in the sea, according to Joi Danielson, programme director of Oceans Plastics Asia at SYSTEMIQ.
On average only about 40%of garbage is properly collected in the five plastic-addled countries that spit out most of the ocean’s trash, with few resources dedicated to proper waste management especially in mushrooming mega-cities.
Plus, plastic consumption and waste continue to balloon along with growing incomes and dependence on plastic products integral to almost every aspect of daily life.
At the current rate of dumping, the total amount of plastic trash in the world’s oceans is expected to double to 250 million tonnes by 2025, according to Ocean Conservancy.
That means there could be more plastic than fish in the world’s seas by 2050 if nothing is done to turn the tide. – The Star