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Troubling map illustrates a 'massive fail' for aquatic life worldwide: 'Very serious problem no one seems to be addressing'

"Waste in the waters is everywhere."

River plastic flowing into oceans

Photo Credit: iStock

A graphic posted on Reddit is creating a sense of disappointment among users. The post contains a map of river plastic flowing into oceans in tonnes (metric tons) per year. 

River plastic flowing into oceans
Photo Credit: u/NouraK / Reddit

Based on the information provided in the map, the most significant concentrations of river plastics are coming from countries off the coast of Asia, including China, the Philippines, and Vietnam. 

Ten rivers — eight of them in Asia — contribute 88-95% of river-to-ocean plastic pollution in the world's oceans, according to research published in Environmental Science & Technology. This study estimated (after a clarification) that rivers transport between 470,000 and 2.75 million tons of plastic into the sea annually, with China's Yangtze River as the most significant contributor. 

Many factors may contribute to the disproportionate share of plastic pollution from Asian countries. Southeast Asia has undergone rapid urbanization in the last century, and its waste infrastructure has not increased at nearly the same rate, according to a World Bank report. 

In countries like Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand, an estimated 75% of the material value, or close to $6 billion, of recyclable plastic is lost merely because the plastic is discarded, per the World Bank. 

The amount of plastic entering the oceans is expected to triple in the next two decades, with the resulting plastic flux from the COVID-19 pandemic being one of the most significant contributors. Disposable masks, online delivery products, and sanitizer bottles have already started to make their way into waterways.

Riverine and ocean plastic is a serious environmental threat. Animals eat or get tangled in waste, and as the plastic starts to break down into microplastics, it can become embedded in the bodies of the fish species we eventually eat. 

"I've been to some of these countries. The plastic waste in the waters is everywhere. Very serious problem no one seems to be addressing. Massive fail for aquatic life and everything that depends on it," one user commented

The original poster replied to this comment with, "Even for terrestrial life! Oceans are responsible for 50% of the planet's oxygen. So if we don't act soon, it will be disastrous for all." 

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