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Approximately 9 million tonnes of plastic waste are discharged from rivers into the world's seas and oceans every year

Posted by Maria Cristina Chiulli on

Approximately 9 million tonnes of plastic waste are discharged from rivers into the world's seas and oceans every year. 86% of the spills originate from the Asian rivers of China, India, Southeast Asia and Indonesia. The rest comes from the rivers of Africa (7.8%), South America (4.8%), Central and North America (1%) and Europe (0.4%). The images collected over the last 35 years by NASA show that at least seven huge plastic islands have formed in the oceans, the largest of which is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also known as the Pacific Trash Vortex. 

In the oceans, the combination of solar radiation and salt water accelerates the fragmentation of plastics: microplastics, "confused" with phytoplankton, enter the fish food chain and are physically competitive with the main food source of fish. The predictions are dramatic: if the spillage of plastic waste is not stopped, according to many studies by prestigious scientific institutions by 2050 there will be more plastics in the oceans than fish, and at least 95% of fish fauna will have ingested microplastics.

The prevention of plastic pollution of the seas and oceans is only possible through the implementation of efficient plastic waste management systems for recycling and reuse. The transition from a linear economy ("produce, use and cast") to a circular economy ("produce, use and reuse, recycle, reuse, reduce”) is vital. The data show that countries (from Europe to China and the USA) are far from "closing" the cycle of the circular economy: most of the material currently recycled does not reach the reuse phase. In particular, for Europe and the United States, it should be noted that until 2017 at least half of the recycled material was exported to China (8 million tonnes), and was therefore excluded from the reuse process. 

The industrial process of recycling and re-use of plastics requires innovation in recycling technologies to improve the quality of materials and incentive measures in the market to support recycled products compared to those resulting from the use of virgin plastics. Effective global standards and voluntary action by companies are also needed to boost the uptake of bioplastics, in particular biodegradable ones, which can now replace more than half of conventional plastics without adverse effects on product quality. The voluntary commitments of companies respond to increased consumer awareness and are a fundamental step both in spreading the culture of recycling and reuse and in promoting and supporting public policies and incentive measures in favour of recycled and biodegradable products. (source: Focus.it)

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