U.S. is world’s top plastic polluter
December 2, 2021 - According to a new National Academy of Sciences report, the United States is the world’s leading contributor of plastic waste and needs a national strategy to combat the issue.
“The success of the 20th century miracle invention of plastics has also produced a global scale deluge of plastic waste seemingly everywhere we look,” wrote Margaret Spring. Spring, the chief science officer of Monterey Bay Aquarium, chaired the committee of experts that compiled the report.
According to the study, the U.S. contributed 42 million tonnes of plastic waste in 2016 -- more than twice as much as China and more than the countries of the European Union combined.
According to the analysis, the United States contributes more than any other nation, generating about 130kg of plastics per person, more than eight times that of a citizen of China at 15.7kg.
At the current rate, the volume of plastics discharged into the ocean could reach up to 53 million tonnes per year by 2030, roughly half of the total weight of fish caught from the sea annually, the report said.
The report offered several steps to address the crisis by reducing virgin plastic production and establishing a national cap.
Other suggestions include using materials that degrade more quickly and the reduction of certain single-use plastics.
Techniques to remove microplastics from wastewater would also stop plastics from entering waterways. The report concludes that stemming plastic disposal directly into the ocean itself also remains a priority.
- Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste (The National Academies Press)
- Plastics: Material-Specific Data (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)
- United States is world's biggest plastic polluter, report finds (AFP)
- U.S. is top contributor to plastic waste, report shows (Washington Post)