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Data from 29,798 cleanups around the world reveal some of the worst garbage hotspots

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Coastal waste is a major environmental problem. But how does this waste differ around the world, and why? The first global analysis of this kind set out to answer these questions using data collected by thousands of citizen scientists.


our analysisReleased today, discovered a garbage hotspot on the continent where everyone, including Australia, lives. This discovery breaks down two lasting myths. plastic Pollution comes from free Some major rivers, And the countries in the North and Global South are primarily responsible for the marine plastics issue.

In this study, disposable plastics made up the majority of the waste. And in general, waste hotspots were associated with socio-economic factors such as the concentration of built infrastructure, reduced national wealth, and high levels of lighting at night.

Our insights reveal complex patterns that drive coastal pollution and suggest that there is no “universal” solution to purify the world’s oceans. In fact, the best solution is to stop the waste problem long before it reaches the ocean.

Complex painting

We are scientists from CSIRO Marine Debris Research team. Our research is Marine protection And that PADI AWARE FoundationHolds together the world’s most comprehensive littermate dataset collected by citizen scientists.

We analyzed hundreds of thousands of items from 22,508 cleanings on land (on the edge of beaches, rivers and lakes) and 7,290 cleanings of the ocean floor. The cleanup spanned 116 and 118 countries, respectively, and participants recorded the number of each item collected.

Analysis has shown that there is a great deal of variety in the location and scale of hotspots for plastic contamination. They were not limited to a single country or river. Instead, hotspots have occurred on the continent and many countries where everyone lives. In many places, the patterns of debris between adjacent places were very different.

Most trash consisted of disposable items: cigarette butts, fishing line, Food wrapper, and PET bottles And a bag.

In general, in areas with a lot of overall litter, the following trends tend to occur:

  • More built infrastructure
  • There is little national wealth
  • Bright lighting at night (indicating the density of the city).

Cities around the world and other densely populated urban areas were linked to hotspots for “convenient” disposable plastic items such as plastic bags, food wrappers, drink bottles, takeaway containers, straws, plastic cutlery, and lids. .. These hotspots are shown in the infographic below.

However, not all garbage items follow this pattern. For example, cigarette butts were more common in Southern Europe and North Africa, following regional patterns.

Analyzing data from 29,798 cleanups around the world revealed some of the worst garbage hotspots

Credit: CSIRO

Fishing lines were the most abundant in wealthy countries where recreational fishing is a popular pastime. Hotspots included Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Hotspot clusters were often associated with partially enclosed bays, seas, and lakes. These include Mediterranean, NS Bay of Bengal, South China and the Philippine Sea, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, Lake Malawi and the Great Lakes of North America.

Plastic accumulation in these areas may be due to factors such as high local littering combined with relatively confined water bodies.

PET bottle hotspots were more common in tropical countries such as Costa Rica and Jamaica. The island nations of Southeast Asia, especially around Indonesia and the Philippines, were rich in plastic food wrapping paper.

Clean our shore

Ultimately, our research reveals the diversity and complexity of plastic pollution problems. We hope that it will help the government make waste policy decisions based on sound scientific evidence.

The findings suggest that programs to address marine debris should be rolled out at the grassroots level, within parts of the country, and nationwide.

In Australia, for example, Zoos Victoria’s Seal the loop This program aims to address local fishing line waste where entertainment is commonplace. The program includes fishing line trash cans placed on piers and boat ramps to facilitate responsible waste disposal.

And in Malawi When 15 other countries In southern Africa, the national ban on plastic bags covers items that are problematic in this region.

According to our analysis, much of the non-degradable waste found in the environment comes from pre-packaged foods and beverages. Therefore, regulations that specifically address this type of package may be useful.

For example, in Australia, Hobart First Australian city Ban on disposable plastic takeaway food packaging as part of its ambitious goal of zero waste landfill by 2030.

Other strategies known to change the behavior of waste include recycling incentives, such as container deposit schemes, especially in low-carbon economies with the highest levels of waste. Education campaign..Taxation on plastic products can also help stop Garbage Enter the environment.

This Saturday, September 18th, Ocean Conservancy is an annual event International coastal cleanup— If possible, come with us if COVID restrictions allow. We support the local environment, collect data and inform you of tomorrow’s waste management policies.


Video: Keep an eye out for marine plastic pollution from space


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Data from 29,798 cleanups around the world reveal some of the worst garbage hotspots

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