Every year, billions of pounds of trash are finding their way into our oceans and devastating our environment. But how is all this trash getting there, and what can be done to stop it? Poor waste management is to blame for much of the plastic and other waste that is winding up in our oceans each year.
Too Much Trash, but Nowhere to Go
China and Indonesia are the #1 and #2 contributors to ocean plastics in the world. Both of these countries produce an extraordinary amount of plastic products, but lack the waste management infrastructure to properly dispose of it. They keep producing plastics, but with no system in place to ensure they stay out of the ocean, that’s exactly where they end up.
Both China and Indonesia have seen massive expansions to their urban centers, but where there’s big booms in people and productivity, there’s also big booms in waste. In these areas of expansion, there has been a high focus on increasing economic growth and production, but a low focus on sustainability and waste management. This has led to an onslaught of plastic waste filling landfills to near capacity and leading governments to choose destructive methods of waste control.
The solution many countries like Indonesia have enacted to deal with their huge amounts of plastic waste has been to create landfills operating as an “open dump.” This means that waste is collected and piled high into landfills with no efforts to minimize the environmental impacts of these actions, such as groundwater seepage and trash flowing into rivers after heavy rainfalls.
These open dumps contribute tons of plastic to oceans and waterways each year, and are highly unsustainable solutions to waste control.
In addition to improper disposal of huge amounts of trash, many of these offending countries also lack a proper recycling system to prevent plastics from ending up in landfills. Indonesia, for example, lacks any kind of recycling system for plastics that are not “high grade, clean, and not mixed with other materials.” This leaves most plastic products to fester in landfills or end up swept away into the giant patches of garbage slowly swallowing oceans and beaches.
Much Needed Change
To fully reclaim our oceans from plastic, we must cut it off at the source. Countries like Indonesia need to enact better waste management programs to prevent plastic waste from ending up in landfills and finding ways to recycle as much of it as possible.
RIO is currently partnering with the Indonesian government to help them manage their current waste disposal system and implement much-needed changes. This includes better landfill management, more recycling programs, and cleanup efforts to remove the damage that has already been done. Our mission is to put systems in place that will keep plastic out of the oceans for good and be a source of pride for governments and people alike.
You can read more about RIO’s mission to end ocean plastic pollution and how we are making products that promote a cleaner, more sustainable future for everyone.