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Plastic Waste Pollution in the Oceans

Photographer: Various


Ever increasing amounts of plastic waste are pouring into the world’s oceans at an alarming rate, and among the biggest producers of plastic waste slippage are communities in Asia. The world’s oceans, marine life, and our futures are at risk from the plastics, as an ever increasing disposable lifestyle push demand for more and more plastics.


On the occasion of World Water Day, which is marked on 22 March 2016, when the health of the world’s waterways are at risk, EPA's photographer’s across this region in the countries most mentioned for their waste production, visited some of their waterways, oceans, and plastic plants.


Recent research indicates a majority of plastic enters the oceans from the rapidly growing economies of China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, according to a report by the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment and Ocean Conservancy. Plastic waste in all its forms, from floating plastic bottles and plastic bags, discarded plastic shoes, spray cans, straws, lids, cups, deodorants, and lighters, are among the gamut of plastic detritus choking our waterways. The smaller fragments of plastics, some so small they are contained as microbeads in cleansers and toothpaste and find their ways into the world’s water to form the newest threat to sea life health. Plastic is swallowed by marine animals, some mistaking the white forms for food, others inadvertently as the plastic break into smaller pieces and these pieces get lodged in the marine life’s guts, so that they slowly starve to death.


Human commitment to stop this plastic strangulation is alarmingly low, say environmentalists, but the situation is reaching a crisis point as the health of our marine life and jobs on the sea in fishing and tourism are at risk. By 2050, a study released earlier this year by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation predicted that without intervention and change of behavior, there is likely to be as an equal amount of plastic weight in the sea as there is fish weight. The report said that plastic leak into the ocean is now equivalent to one garbage truck dumped into the sea every minute, every day. The world’s recycling systems were not efficient and only a small amount of plastic waste is ever recycled, the study also says.


In most parts of Asia, plastic covers everything, and even a small purchase at any shop is put into a plastic bag and given to the buyer – even if not needed. Few people actively refuse the convenience. The plastic then goes into the rubbish bin…and then on and into the waterways. In few places, small attempts have been made to try to change human behavior. In China, a scheme is paying people if they return their plastic bottles to a machine where they are then reused. And Indonesia is currently trialing a voluntary scheme to have retailers charge a minimum 200 Rupiah (US $1.5) for each plastic bag.