In the fifth and final part of our series on the problem of plastics in the world’s oceans, we look at why it’s so important to learn how, where and why it’s important to understand how plastics are getting into the world’s oceans, in order to tackle this monumental problem.
This series is based upon articles and data presented by Hannah Ritchie a Senior Researcher and Head of Research at Our World In Data. These articles would not be possible with their hardworking and generous sharing policies.
Why we need to learn more about the plastics problem.
Identifying where plastic emissions are coming from really matters for how we tackle it. Rich countries emit very little – this means domestic strategies to reduce plastics in these countries will not make much difference to ocean plastics. What rich countries can do is support low-to-middle income countries in improving waste management infrastructure. Improving waste management is a solution that very few people get excited about. But it’s absolutely key to tackling plastic pollution. And, importantly, they can ban the export of any plastics to other countries where it could be mismanaged.
Understanding the distribution of emissions across the world’s rivers is also crucial. Our strategy for tackling this problem is vastly different if we only have to focus on a few or even tens of the world’s largest rivers (as previous studies suggested) versus thousands of smaller ones.
To stop plastic pollution in our oceans we need a global approach to reducing plastic waste and managing it appropriately to stop it leaking into the natural environment. Focusing on a few rivers will not be enough.
When we consider that 80% of the world’s ocean plastics enter the ocean via rivers and coastlines and that an estimated 81% of ocean plastics come from Asian rivers, we can see where the problem lies and wok on a global strategy to fix this issue.