An international study found that just eight countries — all but one of them in Asia — are responsible for about 63 percent of all plastic waste in the oceans:
An unspoken factor that most of these countries have in common: They have been turned into the world’s factories, as mostly Western firms have outsourced some of their most polluting and resource-intensive manufacturing plants to poorer countries that generally lack regulations and/or rule of law.
Most of the nations are also literally the world’s dumping grounds: Much of our garbage — particularly plastic — is shipped to China, the Philippines, Malaysia, and others for recycling, though they cannot always handle the volume.
In a strange way, this deluge of waste also indicates progress: All the countries have a burgeoning middle class — China’s alone is bigger than the whole U.S. by several hundred million — and that means catching up with Western-style consumption and waste, for which they lack the infrastructure and resources.
This is yet another example of why environmental degradation must be addressed at a global level. Just as our trade, commerce, and economic activity transcends borders, so do the waste and resource scarcity they produce. We can’t ship our garbage and pollution to poorer countries and expect them to handle it on their own. Like it or not, we all depend on the same oceans, atmosphere, and resources.
Note: Nigeria and Bangladesh round up the top ten. The U.S. is the only rich country in the top 20, and while it is by far the largest, it also has the most resources to address the issue.