Concerted action in the form of a $5 billion annual spending on waste-management could trigger revamp packaging systems, and let the ocean thrive.
The annual per capita plastic consumption in Western Europe is reported to be 100 kg while Asia consumes only around 20 kg per capita. The latter figure is expected to grow in future as Asia experiences rapid economic growth. In terms of plastic production, Asia produced 45.6 per cent in 2013, according to PlasticsEurope.
A 2015 report by McKinsey Centre for Business and Environment said the majority of plastic enters the ocean from a small geographic area, and that over half comes from just five rapidly growing economies—China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. These countries have recently benefited from significant increases in GDP, reduced poverty, and improved quality of life. However, increasing economic power has also generated exploding demand for consumer products that has not yet been met with a commensurate waste-management infrastructure.
Coordinated action in just these five countries could significantly reduce the global leakage of plastic waste into the ocean by 2025. Specifically, interventions in these five countries could reduce global plastic-waste leakage by approximately 45 per cent over the next 10 years.
Of course, extending these interventions to other countries could have even more impact.
Suggested actions that can have a deep impact:
A concerted global action by all countries would be required on an urgent basis if substantial reduction in marine plastics is to be achieved.
(The author is Director, Environment and Waste Management Division, The Energy and Resources Institute)