Science

The United States, by far the largest producer of plastic waste (report)

The United States is by far the largest contributor to plastic pollution in the world, according to a new report released Wednesday, which calls for developing a national strategy to tackle it.

In total, the United States generated about 42 million tons of plastic waste in 2016, more than twice the size of China and more than the countries of the European Union combined, according to this analysis by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. However, the United States represents less than 5% of the world’s population.

On average, each American generates 130 kilograms of plastic waste per year, with the United Kingdom in second place with 98 kilograms per person per year. In France, the average is 43 kilos.

“The success of the miraculous invention of plastics in the 20th century has also produced an avalanche of plastic waste around the world, wherever we look,” wrote Margaret Spring, chair of the expert panel that wrote this report commissioned by the Congress of USA.

She called the problem an “environmental and social crisis.”

At least 8.8 million tons of plastic waste end up in the ocean each year worldwide, the equivalent of a garbage truck dumped into the sea every minute, according to the report.

All plastics, including those dumped on land, likely end up in the ocean, through rivers, for example, he adds.

At the current rate, the amount of plastic dumped into the ocean could reach 53 million tons per year by 2030, or half the total weight of fish caught in the ocean annually.

Scientific research has shown that hundreds of species are likely to end up trapped in plastic waste or ingest microplastics.

If plastic production has exploded, especially since the 1980s, the development of recycling has not followed.

The report recommends developing a national strategy in the United States by the end of 2022. It details several axes to address the problem, for example, setting a limit on the production of non-recycled plastic, capturing better plastic in the environment, or driving development substitutes.

It also recommends better data collection on the generation of plastic, for example by identifying the largest sources of waste.

“This is the most comprehensive and damning report on plastic pollution ever published,” said Judith Enk, president of the Beyond Plastics association.

“We can no longer ignore the role of the United States in the crisis of plastic pollution, one of the greatest environmental threats facing our oceans and our planet today,” also reacted Christy Leavitt, director of the plastics campaign. within the NGO Oceana.

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