(TMU) — As China increasingly makes efforts to prevent plastic waste from being dumped into its own rivers and mainland waterways, the amount of waste floating in its coastal waters has soared to unprecedented levels.
According to China’s environment ministry, over 200 million cubic meters of waste has been found floating off the coasts of the country—a 27 percent increase over the previous year and the highest level in at least a decade, reports Reuters.
As the country increasingly enjoys economic prosperity as a major manufacturing hub with a growing middle class, the country’s plastic pollution has skyrocketed.
Much of the waste has been dumped into the Yangtze and Pearl river deltas near the country’s east coast, where much of China’s industrial base is located, according to the Ministry of Ecology and Environment.
Huo Chuanlin, the deputy director of the ministry’s marine environment department, cast the blame on local authorities’ inattentiveness and lack of drive in tackling the growing problem. Huo said:
“At the moment, there are some clear problems with the work on the marine ecological environment, with some regions not showing a lot of awareness or paying sufficient attention, and lacking strong initiative and dedication.”
Despite the admission, Huo contended that the overall situation in China’s coastal waters was seeing improvement, including such issues as river wastewaters entering the sea. The official added that the fast-growing crisis of ocean pollution could hardly be blamed on China. He added:
“China is the biggest producer and exporter of plastic products, accounting for about 30 per cent of the world’s total, but that doesn’t mean China is a major marine plastic polluting country.”
In recent years, ocean biologists and conservationists have expressed alarm over the growing problem of plastics and microplastics inundating the world’s oceans and water supplies, leaching carcinogenic toxins and chemicals into the marine environment, with plastic drink containers trapping and confining—and ultimately killing—marine wildlife.
The pollution has reached such massive proportions that an estimated 100 million tons of plastic can now be found in the oceans, according to the UN. Between 80 and 90 per cent of it comes from land-based sources.
Many scientists have said that China, an East Asian economic giant that is poised to become the world’s largest economy in roughly a decade, is the world top producer of plastic waste.
A study published in May by researchers at China’s Tianjin University warned:
“As one of the rapidly growing economies, China is the topmost contributor of plastic waste in the world. China’s massive impact on the plastic levels of the ocean are a definite cause of concern and is developing multiple economic, environmental and biological complications.”