The U.S. is contributing up to five times more plastic pollution to the oceans than previously thought, according to a follow-up study published in Science Advances. The study was a sequel to 2015 research, which had given a rough estimate of the waste contribution by the U.S. The new study has now revealed that Americans contributed between 1.1 and 2.2 million metric tons of plastic to the oceans in 2016. This figure is almost double the higher end of the estimates from 2015 and five times more than the lowest estimates in the earlier predictions.
The study has revealed that Americans are using more plastic than ever before. The data included American waste exports that were not accounted for in their previous studies. About 88% of the country’s waste exports goes to countries with poor recycling infrastructure. Recent developments have shown that much of the plastic waste that is exported does not go through recycling systems and ends up in the oceans.
“When you consider how much of our plastic waste isn’t actually recyclable because it is low-value, contaminated, or difficult to process, it’s not surprising that a lot of it ends up polluting the environment,” said Kara Lavender Law, lead author and research professor of oceanography at the Sea Education Association.
Data analysis is an important aspect that must be employed in the management of plastic waste. According to Tony Walker, an associate professor at the Dalhousie University School for Resource and Environmental Studies, there is a lack of data standards across municipalities. The researchers are now emphasizing the need to get accurate information when it comes to plastic pollution.
As reported by The New York Times, only 9% of the country’s total waste goes into the recycling system. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that such waste will actually be made into new items. Plastic recycling has proven to be quite expensive, making it unrealistic for plastic manufactures to use recycled plastic.
Image via Brian Yurasits