Check out my new video on plastics ocean pollution to learn where it comes from and why so we can stop the spread. Transcript with corresponding references and citations below.
We all agree that plastic pollution in the ocean is a huge problem. While plastic packaging gets targeted as the biggest contributor to ocean trash, discarded fishing gear, like fishing nets, actually takes the cake. The great pacific garbage patch, the swirling black hole of plastics pollution in the northern Pacific Ocean, is estimated to be 86% discarded fishing nets. This is ocean-based plastic pollution, propagated by an illegal and unreported fishing industry, which I do not know how to regulate. What I am interested in, is land-based plastic pollution.
We’ve all seen pictures of plastic debris in the waterways and bays of developing countries so dense that you can’t even see the water; it looks like a floating, flowing landfill. This plastic waste isn’t just bobbing along in the ocean, waiting to be carried onto the coasts of the world’s poorest nations with the tide. It originates on land; it’s called, “land-based plastic leakage.” China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam together contribute almost half of all plastic entering the ocean. Because these countries lack waste management infrastructure, the plastic products that they consume, which is only increasing with development, just flows into the ocean with storms and wastewater runoff.
It’s not just their garbage flowing into the ocean, its ours, too. For decades America and other wealthy nations have shipped its hard to recycle ‘recyclables’ to these countries. This is because they can cheaply, with manual labor, sort, and resell. This is not the case stateside, as often times the cost of collecting, sorting, and reprocessing mixed packaging materials exceeds the cost of virgin material production.
We have a scenario where, historically, all the mixed paper and plastic that is too hard to sort and reprocess, is baled and shipped overseas. If this material is not resold, then it can make its way into the natural water ways of these nations, entering the ocean and becoming ocean trash.This is starting to change, because China is no longer accepting our mixed material baled imports. This is forcing domestic recyclers to invest in the technologies necessary to recycle these materials in America. There is a lot of work being done by plastic, packaging, and consumer product goods stakeholders to address and mitigate plastic ocean pollution. This will be discussed in Dordan’s next video.