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Jenna Jambeck’s paper suggesting that five countries pollute the most is misleading.  This also comes from the Ocean Conservancy report “ Stemming the Tide,” published with support from Coke, Dow and the American Chemistry Council.

The gist of it is that Jenna Jambeck’s paper looks at 192 countries close to the coast, and their per capita plastic use and national waste management strategy.  In her top 20 list, China is the biggest waste producer and the US is 20th.  The paper leaves out the fact that wastepickers in China are a huge population that keeps a lot of plastic off the street/beach. She also doesn’t take US exports of trash to China into account. This is a huge bias that favors the industry position that Asian countries need to burn and bury their waste, rather than eliminate some products in favor of Extended Producer Responsibility.

Photo via 5 Gyres

Photo via 5 Gyres

Dr. Marcus Eriksen, 5 Gyres’ Research Director recently wrote this blurb for a book :

“A study calculating the amount of mismanaged plastic waste generated by coastal populations worldwide estimated that 4.8 to 12.7 million tons (metric tons) can potentially enter the ocean as marine debris (Jambeck et al., 2015). The framework integrates data on solid waste, population density and economic status for 192 coastal countries. The annual amount of mismanaged plastic waste generated by population living within 50 km of the coast was estimated at 31.9 million metric tons ranging between 1.1 to 8.8 million metric tons per year for individual countries with a conversion rate from mismanaged plastic waste to potential plastic marine pollution ranging from 15 to 40 percent. This conversion rate range was assumed conservative and based on municipal water quality data from the San Francisco Bay watershed in California, estimating 61 percent of all materials littered in the watershed was not captured by street sweeping or catchments and thus available to enter the waterways.”

(This article originally appeared on 5 Gyres. It has been reprinted here with permission.)

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