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U.S. Is World’s Top Generator of Plastic Waste

U.S. Is World’s Top Generator of Plastic Waste

The U.S. generates more plastic waste than any other country, producing roughly 287 pounds of plastic per person per year, according to a new congressional report.

That adds up to an enormous volume of plastic waste — about 42 million metric tons in 2016 — which is nearly twice the amount of plastic waste generated in China, with its 1.4 billion people, and more than the 27 countries of the European Union combined, The Washington Post reports.

“That volume is astounding,” said the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s chief conservation and science officer, Margaret Spring, who chaired the study, which was prepared by a committee of the National Academy of Sciences.

Of the 42 million tons of plastic waste produced annually in the U.S., an estimated 1.1 million to 2.2 million metric tons leak into the environment. Globally, about 8 million metric tons of plastic wind up in the ocean every year, and that number is projected to climb to 53 million metric tons by 2030, the Post reports. That 2030 figure would be equivalent to “roughly half of the total weight of fish caught from the ocean annually,” the congressional study said.

Spring said that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should spearhead efforts to reduce plastics production and institute more effective recycling efforts.

“You can’t just focus on one thing,” she said. “This really all has to be done with the end in mind, which is what is going to happen to this stuff when you’re finished with it.”

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