275,000,000 tons. This is the amount of plastic waste that was produced globally in 2010. It is estimated that 4,800,000 to 12,700,000 tons, with an average of 8,000,000 tons, of this was carried into the ocean and became marine debris (Jambeck et al. 2015).
This report also showed the amount of plastic waste originating from cities within 50km of the coastlines of 192 coastal countries. It also ranked those waste producers that didn’t manage their waste disposal properly.
The following chart is the result. Surprisingly, 13 Asian countries are included among the 20 worst countries (Jambeck et al. 2015).
The worst country was China, which also has the largest population in the world. It is estimated that 8,820,000 tons of plastic waste were disposed due to improper management in Chinese coastal areas in 2010. This amount represents 27.7% (more than one quarter) of unmanaged plastic waste in the world, and
it is estimated that 1,320,000 to 3,530,000 tons of plastic waste is carried into the ocean in a year (Jambeck et al. 2015).
The Chinese have already adopted measures to reduce their waste, such as no longer distributing free plastic bags. However, the reality is that the population is still too large for the waste disposal to be managed effectively (Xanthos & Walker 2017).
The second worst country is Indonesia, which has the fourth largest population in the world. From Indonesian coastal areas, 3,220,000 tons of plastic waste was improperly managed or discarded, whereby 480,000 to 1,290,000 tons of plastic waste entered the ocean (Jambeck et al. 2015).
The majority of the 20 worst countries are rapidly developing middle income countries, and their populations are concentrated along the coastal areas. They manage their waste inadequately and the construction of their infrastructure is still ongoing.
The term “unmanaged disposal” means that the system is not well designed and cannot stop waste from spilling into the environment; in other words, it is sloppy management of waste disposal.
For example, when garbage trucks carry waste, they should be covered so as not to scatter it around. In most of these worst ranking countries, such preventive measures are not taken. Rather, the waste is simply placed on a truck bed without a cover, from where it can be easily blown away and is eventually carried into the ocean (Elias 2017).
The U.S. has good management regarding its waste disposal, but it is still among the worst 20 countries. The reason is that the population is concentrated along the coastal areas and the amount of plastic consumption per person is large because of the wealthy population.
It is sad to say that the ability to handle and dispose of waste all over the world cannot meet the rapidly increasing waste production.
Plastic production is increasing tremendously in conjunction with population growth. At the same time, the amount of plastic waste disposed of in the sea is increasing. It is expected that the amount of plastic waste in the ocean will outweigh all of the fish by 2050 (World Economic Forum 2016).
Governments and companies should take the lead in tackling the plastic waste problem. Yet we, the consumer, have a responsibility, too, because most of the plastic debris in the sea comes from single-use plastic (Hopewell et a. 2009).
You must be conscious of using disposable plastic products such as bags, spoons, forks, bottles, etc. Cigarette ends are also plastic products: the cigarette filter is made of a kind of plastic and barely dissolves in the sea.
More than 60% of plastic waste is disposable plastic (Hopewell et a. 2009). Therefore, we should consider ourselves warned that unless we banish single-use plastic and plastic packaging from our lives, the ocean will become irrevocably contaminated.