A recent investigation has discovered that up to 95% of plastic waste comes from just ten rivers in Asia and Africa. There are about 2.3 billion tonnes of plastic floating in the world’s oceans, and experts believe they have identified which river systems carry the majority of this plastic out to sea.
Targeting those river systems, such as the Ganges which runs through India and Bangladesh and the Yangtze River which runs through China, could almost halve the volume of plastic that gets dumped into the oceans.
The research, carried out by Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (HCER) in Germany, said the best way of tackling the issue of plastic in the oceans is by dealing with the sources. "One thing is certain: this situation cannot continue. But as it is impossible to clean up the plastic debris that is already in the oceans, we must take precautions and reduce the input of plastic quickly and efficiently." said Doctor Christian Schmidt, a hydrogeologist with HCER.
The team at HCER examined data from 57 rivers, at 79 sample sites, and discovered that the Yangtze River in China is the number one polluter – depositing 1.5 million tonnes of plastic into the Yellow Sea annually. The plastic the river conveys is comprised of microplastics, which measure less than 5mm across, and larger pieces. Microplastic is harmful to marine life, but, as it is so small it'll be impossible to remove every piece.
Schmidt said "Halving the plastic input from the catchment areas of these rivers would be a major success" but "to achieve this, it will be necessary to improve waste management and raise public awareness of the issue" he added.
Other huge contributors to the plastic load in the ocean annually:
A. Xi, Dong, and Zhujiang Rivers in China; 105,700 tonnes every year.
B. Brantas River in Indonesia; 38,500 tonnes every year.
C. Solo River in Indonesia; 32,200 tonnes every year.
D. Serayu River in Indonesia; 16,800 tonnes every year.
E. Progo River in Indonesia; 12,700 tonnes every year.
Schmidt said that the 10 rivers depositing the most plastic into the oceans are responsible for 88-95 percent of the plastic being dumped into the oceans annually.