Plastics Over the Bounding Main? Not Primarily the US’s Doing

In a report just released, the National Academy of Sciences takes America to task for being the world’s biggest contributor of the plastic refuse that finds its way into to the oceans. But the claim needs closer examination. 

Credible prior reporting has estimated, on a country-by-country basis, the seaward flux of packaging materials: plastic bottles, bags, eating and drinking utensils, and sundry other consumer items afloat on ocean currents. Study outcomes may vary and yield somewhat divergent results, accountable from differing methodologies reliant on the modeling assumptions used, but their overall agreement is consistent.

Neither cited study supports NAS’s contention that the United States is the primary source of the vast accumulation of plastic debris in the oceans. That distinction is reserved for several Asian nations. In today’s China, India, and the Philippines there is very little emphasis on preventing plastic waste from entering the water courses that enter the sea. These are the world’s leading plastics polluters with the United States coming in a distant 8th in one study and much farther down on the guilty list in the other. The U.S. contribution is believed to be less than 2% of the world total. 

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