McKinsey Investigates Marine Litter
The amount of unmanaged plastic waste entering the ocean has reached crisis levels. On current trends, the global quantity of plastic in the ocean could nearly double to 250 million metric tons by 2025 - or one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish. Yet a collective response by ocean states, especially by the handful of Asian countries with particularly high volumes of unmanaged plastic waste, could almost halve this total, mitigating the mounting environmental and economic damage.
This is the critical finding of a joint report by the Ocean Conservancy and the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment, "Stemming the tide: Land-based strategies for a plastic-free ocean". The investigation found that more than 80 % of ocean plastic comes from land-based sources rather than ocean-based sources such as fisheries and fishing vessels. Of that 80 %, three-quarters comes from uncollected waste, and the remainder from leaks from within the waste-management system itself.
According to the report, more than half of the plastic leaking into the ocean comes from just five countries: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. As an immediate priority, the authors believe there is an opportunity to reduce plastic-waste leakage by 65 % in these five countries - resulting in a 45 % reduction globally - through measures including closing leakage points within the collection system, increasing waste-collection rates, using a variety of technologies to treat waste, and manually sorting high-value plastic waste.
The report identifies six cornerstones of a concerted program to stem global plastic-waste leakage and estimates the total cost of implementing measures to reduce plastic-waste leakage at USD 5 billion a year which would, to a significant degree, be covered by existing commitments to build waste-management systems. Additional funding requirements could be met through typical project-financing mechanisms involving the public, private, and multilateral sectors.
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