The world has a plastic pollution crisis. Since 1950, humans have produceds more than 8 billion tons of plastic. More than half of it went straight to landfills and only about 9% was recycled. Most of the plastic that isn’t recycled or sent to landfills ends up in the oceans. It is estimated that every year anywhere from 4.8 to 12.7 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean each year.
High-income countries tend to generate more plastic waste per person. Despite having well-managed waste streams, plastic waste still enters rivers and oceans. Plastic in the oceans harms its ecosystems, where marine animals can mistake plastic for food or become trapped or injured by it.
Based on information from 2010, China produced the largest quantity of plastic at 59.08 tons of plastic. Despite being the largest producer of plastic waste, daily plastic waste per person is one of the lowest in the world at .12 kilograms. China plans to ban single-use, non-degradable bag in all major cities by the end of 2020 and in all cities and towns by 2022. Additionally, restaurants will be banned from using single-use straws by the end of 2020.
The United States is the second-largest producer of plastic waste in the world. The U.S. produced about 37.83 million tons of plastic waste in 2010 and produces more than 275,000 tons of plastic litter. The United States burns about six times more plastic waste than it recycles. The United States, as well as other countries like Canada and the U.K., is known for exporting plastic was to countries in Asia to offload their problem on another country.
Germany produces 14.48 million tons of plastic waste per year and 31,239 tons of plastic litter that is at risk of entering waterways. Germany’s daily plastic waste per person is one of the highest in the world at .46 kilograms. Germany’s Environment Ministry introduced a five-point plan in 2018 that aims to reduce the country’s plastic waste.
Brazil, the fifth-largest country in the world, is the fourth-largest producer of plastic waste. Brazil generates about 11.85 million tons of plastic waste per year. Brazil is estimated to recycle only 1.28% of its total plastic waste, meaning that about 7.7 million tons end up in landfills.
Japan generates about 7.99 tons of plastic waste and more than 143,000 tons of plastic litter per year. Japan has more than 18,000 miles of coastline. Some point out that Japan’s obsession with hygiene causes many foods to be wrapped, rewrapped, and bagged in multiple layers of plastic. The Japanese government now has the goal of reducing plastic use by 25% by 2030.
Pakistan generates about 6.41 million tons of plastic waste in a year, making it the sixth-largest producer of plastic waste. Pakistan is also the sixth-largest country in the world. Pakistan is estimated to use about 55 million plastic bags annually. In August 2019, the Plastic-Bag Free Initiative was implemented to ban the manufacturing, sale, and purchase of plastic bags.
Nigeria, the seventh-largest country in the world, is the seventh-largest producer of plastic waste in the world. Nigeria produces about 5.96 million tons of plastic waste every year. The Nigerian government has yet to join the global effort to reduce plastic pollution.
Russia produces about 5.84 million tons of plastic every year. According to a report, up to 36.3 pieces of microplastic are found per kilogram of dry sediment in the Baltic Sea beaches in the Kaliningrad region. Local and volunteer-led efforts have started in Russia to help combat plastic pollution, but these efforts need to be scaled larger to be effective due to Russia’s size and population.
Turkey generates about 5.6 billion tons of plastic waste per year. The average use of plastic bags in Turkey is 440 per person per year. As of January 1, 2019, the country banned single-use plastic bags and transitioned to reusable and paper bags in an effort to reduce plastic pollution. Plastic bags now cost 0.25 Turkish liras (0.036 U.S. dollars).
Egypt is the tenth-largest producer of plastic waste in the world, generating about 5.46 million tons of plastic per year. Egypt is the largest producer of plastic waste in the Arab world. Egypt is the largest source of plastic polluting the Mediterranean Sea.