The United States is by far the country that contributes the most plastic pollution in the world, according to a new report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, released Wednesday.
In total, the United States generated around 42 million tonnes of plastic waste in 2016 – more than double the size of China and more than the European Union countries combined, according to this analysis. However, the United States represents less than 5% of the world population.
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On average, each American generates 130 kilograms of plastic waste per year, with the UK second at 98 kilograms per person per year. In France, the average is 43 kilos.
Waste that ends up in the oceans
“The success of the miraculous invention of plastic in the 20th century has also produced a deluge of plastic waste globally, everywhere we look,” wrote Margaret Spring, chair of the panel of experts that wrote the commissioned report. by the US Congress. She called the problem an “environmental and social crisis”.
At least 8.8 million tonnes of plastic waste ends up in the ocean each year around the world – the equivalent of a garbage truck dumped into the sea every minute, according to the report. All plastics, including those thrown on land, are likely to end up in the ocean, via rivers for example, he adds.
At the current rate, the amount of plastic poured into the ocean could reach 53 million tonnes 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 caught in plastic waste or ingest microplastics.
A damning report
If the production of plastic 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 tackle the problem, for example by establishing a limit on the production of non-recycled plastic, by capturing better plastic in the environment, or by pushing the development of substitutes.
It also recommends better collecting data 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,” responded Judith Enk, president of the association Beyond Plastics.
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“We can no longer ignore the role of the United States in the plastic pollution crisis, 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.