Recycling Plastic Is Making Ocean Litter Worse

Recycling Plastic Is Making Ocean Litter Worse, by Dr Mikko Paunio.

  • Most of the plastic waste comes from just a few countries, mostly in Asia and Africa.
  • 25% is “leakage” from Asian waste management processes — the rest is waste that has never been collected, but is simply thrown into rivers.
  • But European countries ship inject huge quantities of waste into Asian waste management streams, ostensibly for recycling. As much as 20% — millions of tons every year — ends up in the oceans and will continue to do so.
  • Since the Chinese banned waste imports at the start of the year, shipments have been diverted to other Asian countries with even weaker environmental controls.
  • EU recycling is therefore a major contributor to marine waste and increasing recycling will therefore simply increase marine litter.

It is clear that the European contribution to marine waste is a result of our efforts to recycle. However, several countries have already shown that they can reduce this contribution to near zero, by simply incinerating waste.

Despite this success, the EU is trying to redouble recycling efforts and to close down the incineration route, mistakenly believing that this will reduce carbon emissions.