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Asia Minute: Six Countries Dominate Ocean Plastic Pollution

Casey Harlow / HPR
Plastic littering the shore of Waimanalo Beach Park

There’s a new report out this week about plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean. The study looked at half a dozen countries that together are responsible for most of the plastic in the world’s oceans—and it came to some surprising conclusions.

Six countries are responsible for nearly two-thirds of the plastic going into the world’s oceans.

That’s according to a new study out by the WWF — a group you may know as the World Wildlife Fund in the United States, but that has been rebranded in most places as the World-Wide Fund for Nature — which calls itself the world’s largest conservation organization.

The WWF says 8 million tons of plastic enter the world’s oceans each year, with 60% coming from China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Out of that grouping, the organization says Malaysia has the highest per capita rate of plastic pollution — with each person consuming roughly 37 pounds of plastic packaging each year.

A lack of recycling operations is one challenge, while another is the growing use of food delivery services — which results in a lot of plastic waste.

Reuters reports that the Malaysian government has launched a program to improve its recycling, with an interim report expected next month.

The WWF study estimates that the volume of plastic waste going into the ocean from all sources is likely to quadruple between 2010 and 2050 — by which time as measured by weight, the ocean could contain more plastic than fish.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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