10 rivers that dump the vast majority of plastic into the oceans are all in Asia and Africa…

California’s New War on Plastic May Be the Last Straw

(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) Many cities in California have outlawed plastic straws to cut down on litter on beaches, streets, and waterways.

Yet a 2017 study in the Environmental Science and Technology journal found Americans bear hardly any responsibility for the plastics plaguing the world’s oceans.

Despite America’s strong environmental standards, San Francisco, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz, and Seattle have all passed plastic straw bans since 2017, the San Diego Tribune reported.

The report, which comes from German researchers, concluded that 90 percent of the 8 million tons of plastics that end up in the ocean each year come from 10 rivers, none of which are located anywhere near the United States.

The 10 rivers that dump the vast majority of plastic into the oceans — The Yangtze, the Indus, Yellow River, Hai River, the Nile, the Ganges, Pearl River, Amur River, the Niger, and the Mekong — are all in Asia and Africa.

These rivers have such severe pollution because they sit next to densely populated areas without adequate trash and recycling services.

Plus, people who live in these poor regions do not understand the global consequences of throwing trash into a river — they simply see it vanish downstream.

The Yangtze River in Asia contributes more plastics to the ocean than any other in the world. About 480 million people reside alongside the river and rely on it for their economic survival.

The solution, according to scientists at the Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research, is to address the problem’s source, not to clean up plastics once they’ve entered the oceans.

“So the problem is huge but the good news is that there is no need to reinvent the wheel — or for some breakthrough technology,” the study said. “Simply collecting and recycling trash as is already being done in other parts of the world (with varying degrees of success) could largely solve the problem.”

Researchers said using less plastics would help reduce the problem, too. But proper recycling and waste management facilities work in the rest of the world and would require fewer infrastructure improvements than attempting to remove plastic from the economy.

“Halving the plastic input from the catchment areas of these rivers would already be a major success,” said Christian Schmidt, a hydrogeologist at the Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research.

plastic pollution river photo

Photo by Horia Varlan (CC)

Plastic straws, and specifically plastic straws in the United States, contribute only a small portion to the ocean’s plastic pollution problem.

Denise Hardesty and Chris Wilcox, Australian scientists studying plastics pollution, estimated that about 7.5 million straws lie on America’s coastlines by looking at trash collected during a five year clean-up period, the Chicago Tribune reported.

From this they made the wide-ranging estimate that 437 million to 8.3 billion plastic straws lie on shorelines around the globe.

Assuming that every one of those billions of straws landed in the ocean, they would account for about 2,000 out of the 8 to 9 million tons of plastic waste that pollute the ocean every year.

Even so, American plastic pollution would account for a small fraction of the 2,000 tons.