At a United Nations (UN) oceans conference in New York, the Asian countries of China, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines promised
to do more to prevent plastics ending up in the world’s oceans.
Plastic is non-biodegradable, which means it cannot break down. It’s thought that more than eight million tonnes of plastic end up in the world’s oceans every year. More than half of it is from five nations: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. A lot of the plastic in the world’s waters is accidentally swallowed by birds and fish.
Over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century – and we produce more than 200 million tonnes of plastic every single year. Scientists reckon 75% of the plastic in the world’s seas flows from just ten rivers, most of which are in Asia. In Thailand, around 2.8 million tonnes of rubbish ended up in the sea in 2016, and 12% of that was plastic. The Thai government says it is taking action, including encouraging more environmentally-friendly packaging. The Indonesian government has announced a new scheme to teach schoolchildren about pollution.
The UN’s environment executive director, Erik Solheim, told the BBC that “there are quite encouraging signs, with nations taking the ocean much more seriously”. But he also warned that “there is a very long way to go.”