A separate study that year in the journal Science found that the six countries producing the most “mismanaged plastic waste” in 2010 were in the Asia-Pacific region. China topped the list, followed by Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
The study also said that an estimated eight million metric tons of plastic waste made its way into the world’s oceans each year — equivalent to “five plastic grocery bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world,” the study’s lead author, Jenna Jambeck, told The New York Times.
Water pollution has been making headlines across Southeast Asia in recent months. First the Indonesian island of Bali declared a “garbage emergency” late last year after garbage washed up on its beaches. And in April, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines ordered the closing of a popular resort island, saying that the water around it posed a danger to public health.
In Thailand, more than 300 endangered sea turtles and between 100 and 150 dolphins and whales are stranded on local beaches every year after ingesting plastic or being somehow caught up in it, said Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a fisheries expert at Kasetsart University in Bangkok, citing government figures.
Last week, the European Union proposed banning several single-use plastic products in an attempt to reduce an estimated $250 billion or more of marine pollution over the next dozen years. Dr. Thon said he was urging the Thai government to do the same.
“We don’t want to be the country that everyone blames in the future if we do nothing,” he said.
Dr. Thon added that in the short term, he was working with the government on a plan for a consumer tax on plastic shopping bags.