This is the World's Number 1 Plastic Waste Producing Country


A total of 242 million metric tons of goods are disposed of worldwide each year, the equivalent of about ten billion statues of Liberty. More than one-sixth of that total comes from only one country.

"In 2016, the United States was the largest producer of plastic waste," says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

The report was commissioned by Congress as part of the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act, which was passed with bipartisan support in December 2020.

"Plastic waste is an environmental and social crisis that the US needs to address decisively from the source to the ocean," said Margaret Spring, head of conservation and science at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, who chaired the committee of experts that compiled the report.

"The plastic waste produced by the US has so many consequences, impacting inland and coastal communities, polluting our rivers, lakes, beaches, bays, and waterways," added Spring.

He added that this places a social and economic burden on vulnerable populations, endangers marine and wildlife habitats, and pollutes the waters on which humans depend for food and livelihoods.

The report found that the US was responsible for an estimated 42 million metric tons of plastic waste in 2016. That's more than double nearly every other country on Earth, and more than the 28 European Union countries combined. Per capita, Americans produce about 130 kilograms of plastic waste each year.

Most of this waste ends up in landfills, but too much ends up "leaking" into the environment. This is due to clearly irresponsible choices such as littering, or sending the equivalent of 68,000 containers of waste to a developing country that is also overwhelmed.

Even properly managed plastic waste can end up in the environment, and occurs at reported rates of around one or two million megatonnes per year.

We already know what the consequences will be: in less than a decade, the report warns, the amount of plastic waste dumped into the ocean could reach up to 53 million megatonnes per year by 2030, or roughly half the total weight of fish caught from the ocean each year. year.

According to a 2016 report by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation, the oceans are expected to be more plastic than fish by 2050. Even now, many species have been found to be choking, suffocating, or poisoned by plastic waste. So don't be surprised if a global-scale flood of plastic waste will be seen everywhere.

"There is urgency to this issue," said Jenna Jambeck, member of the scientific committee behind the report. "Production increases, waste generation increases, so the impact of leakage also has the potential to increase," he said

The solution, or at least the beginning of one, is laid out in a six-point intervention plan. First, the committee said that the US should reduce plastic production, especially plastic that cannot be reused or practically recyclable. The second intervention took this further, by calling for new material innovations to replace plastics that could degrade more quickly or could be more easily recycled or reused.

Third, we need to change the type of plastic we use. Quite simply, if we use less disposable and single-use products, then we waste less product.

The fourth intervention target is to improve the national waste management system, starting from infrastructure, collection, processing, leakage control, and even accounting.

In particular, the research committee recommends increasing the collection of plastics into the waste management system, recycling of plastics, and the isolation or treatment of plastic waste residues to avoid leakage into the environment, or essentially recycle more.

Point five is "catch waste." In other words, we need to start picking up trash, cleaning up rivers or beaches where plastic waste accumulates. If we cleaned up the waste before it reached the ocean, as is done today, the task of cleaning the ocean would be much easier.

"To note, ocean dredging itself is very expensive, inefficient and impractical," the report said.

The last point, which is the simplest, is to minimize dumping in the ocean of plastic waste i.e., stop throwing garbage directly into the ocean!

Of course, these things are easier said in theory than in practice. However, this is part of the effort to achieve plastic waste reduction, and can be imitated by other countries.

"The report recommends the US establish a coherent, comprehensive, and cross-cutting federal policy and research strategy to reduce its contribution to plastic waste to the environment and the ocean. This strategy should be developed by a group of experts, or an external advisory body, by December 31, 2022. Implementation strategy should be assessed by December 31, 2025," the report concluded.

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