Asian rivers produce almost all the world’s ocean pollution

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A new study has found that 95% of all ocean pollution comes from only 10 rivers worldwide, and of those 8 are in Asia.

Dr Schmidt pooled data from dozens of research articles and calculated the amount in rivers was linked to the ‘mismanagement of plastic waste in their watersheds.’ He said: ‘The 10 top-ranked rivers transport 88-95 per cent of the global load into the sea.’

The study follows a recent report that pointed the finger at China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam for spewing out most of the plastic waste that enters the seas. The Yangtze has been estimated in previous research to dump some 727 million pounds of plastic into the sea each year. The Ganges River in India is responsible for even more – about 1.2 billion pounds. A combination of the Xi, Dong and Zhujiang Rivers (233 million lbs per year) in China as well as four Indonesian rivers: the Brantas (85 million lbs annually), Solo (71 million pounds per year), Serayu (37 million lbs per year) and Progo (28 million lbs per year), are all large contributors.

The article also notes this:

More than half of the plastic waste that flows into the oceans comes from just five countries: China, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. The only industrialized western country on the list of top 20 plastic polluters is the United States at No. 20.

The U.S. and Europe are not mismanaging their collected waste, so the plastic trash coming from those countries is due to litter, researchers said.

While China is responsible for 2.4 million tons of plastic that makes its way into the ocean, nearly 28 percent of the world total, the United States contributes just 77,000 tons, which is less than one percent, according to the study published in the journal Science.

So, the next time you see a wild-eyed leftwing environmentalist trying to blame western civilization, capitalism, and the U.S. for the world’s pollution, please remember this study. It is the free nations of the world that have nimbly reacted well to the problems of pollution, not communist dictatorships like China or Vietnam.

I should add that the record of democracies here is not perfect by far. The rivers of India are a big contributor to this pollution. That country needs to deal with this problem also.



  • wayne

    Most excellent Post Mr. Z.!

    What is not commonly reported upon or even known (or understood) to/by our MSM overlord’s; our entire Country is considerably more “clean” than when I was born.
    In my area of the world, we have had an across-the-board (up to) 90%, reduction in practically every area of “pollution,” compared to a 1970 baseline. (When Nixon gave us the EPA, for good and bad.)

    pivoting, just cuz’ it is relevant, entertaining, and it’s Friday…

    Joe Rogan Experience #1104 – Boyan Slat
    (He’s the young guy who wants to recycle ocean-plastics. He’s remarkably well informed and refreshingly free of bizzaro lefty ideology)

  • Andrew_W

    This country is heavily afflicted with plastic paranoia.

  • Garry

    Andrew, your comment is rather cryptic. By “this country” do you mean your native New Zealand or the US? And who exactly is paranoid about what?

  • wayne

    “Who changes the old and creates the new, serves Progress! This story of progress is the story of the search for ‘Better Things for Better Living — Through Chemistry.'”

    The Wonder World of Chemistry
    1936 DuPont

    “In the 1920s, DuPont continued its emphasis on materials science, hiring Wallace Carothers to work on polymers in 1928. Carothers invented neoprene, a synthetic rubber, the first polyester polymer, and Nylon in 1935.”

    [“Nathaniel Wyeth, invented the plastic soda bottle. The brother of artist Andrew Wyeth and son of artist N.C. Wyeth, he chose science for his career. He invented 25 processes and products in the more than 40 years he worked for Du Pont Co. Wyeth’s most famous invention was the bottle he patented in 1973 made of a kind of polyester called polyethylene terephthalate or PET. It was the first plastic container capable of holding carbonated beverages without either ballooning up like a basketball or letting the soda go flat, and soon became a familiar household item.”]

  • wayne

    I took that to be neutral to positive from our friend in NZ.

    -An interesting factoid:
    “A barrel of oil makes about 19½ gallons of gasoline, 9 gallons of fuel oil, 4 gallons of jet fuel, and 11 gallons of other products, including lubricants, kerosene, asphalt, and petrochemical feedstock’s to make plastics. 90% of all mass-Consumer “plastics” however, are synthesized from Natural Gas feedstock’s rather than oil.”

    Back to the thread:
    It’s the 2nd and 3rd world that are “polluting ” the Earth, not the 1st World. A mass generality to be sure, but more true than not.
    The United States as a whole, is substantially “cleaner” that it was in 1970, by almost every measure. And it happened faster than any one dreamed was possible.
    “Advanced” societies achieve a level of growth and Wealth, along with stable Institutions, that allow them to ‘clean up themselves,’ as a natural order of progress. (I would maintain a free-er Market would generally handle ‘pollution,’ eventually… and the current Regulatory scheme is overbearing and never was about clean-anything, buts that’s for a different thread.)

  • Edward

    Robert wrote: “It is the free nations of the world that have nimbly reacted well to the problems of pollution, not communist dictatorships like China or Vietnam. I should add that the record of democracies here is not perfect by far. The rivers of India are a big contributor to this pollution. That country needs to deal with this problem also.

    India and China have both been traditionally centrally controlled economies, controlled by their governments, and governments do not much care how clean the environment is. The difference between centrally controlled economies and free market economies is that the customers have a great say in choosing from which company they buy, and they can choose to buy from companies that are more environmentally conscious. Democracies allow their people to have a say in how their governments regulate, and democracies in the last century or so have moved toward environmental protections. People like to live in beautiful areas or at least have beautiful parks (e.g. Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Grand Canyon) to visit. People who have spent a lot of money on a house overlooking the river (or other beautiful place) do not want to look out at pollution, so they petition industry and their democratic government to do something to keep it clean.

    When the government runs things, then all the people get is what the government wants, not what the people want; monarchies demonstrated this for centuries. Under communism/socialism no one gets what they want; every communist and socialist country demonstrated this in the 20th century, and Venezuela has demonstrated it in spades in the 21st century. The more totalitarian the government, the people get less of what they want, and even the government can fail to get what it wants, despite having all the control.

    Totalitarian governments tend to care less about environments, because it costs more to keep clean, and cleanliness does not present much benefit to the government. This is why the communist and socialist nations tend to be so polluted.

    When We the People run things, we get what we want; the United States demonstrated this in the 19th century (John Muir made major progress) and the 20th century (as wayne pointed out), and Europe demonstrated it in the 20th century.

    India has only recently moved toward a free market economy, and their population has benefited greatly; now half of the population has been lifted from poverty. India also seems to be moving more toward democracy, too. Indians can soon begin to afford to become as concerned as Americans are about the environment in which they live.

    The Chinese have also recently moved toward free market capitalism, and now half the population is also no longer living in poverty, although they have not yet moved toward democracy. China may take longer than India in becoming more concerned about the environment, but I have confidence that they will also get there.

    China and India have confirmed the advantages of free market capitalism, and as they let their people determine their own governance then they will also confirm the advantages of democratic forms of government, right down to the people insisting upon cleaner environments.

  • Garry

    Wayne, I have no preconceptions of what our Kiwi friend meant; it could be neutral, positive, or negative. I’m curious what he means.

    I agree with you on what’s been done with pollution in the US.

    In the big picture, many people view clean water, air, and land as luxury goods. I was going to write “and other environmental issues,” but I think those categories pretty much cover it, and I specifically want to avoid including sham environmental issues such as CO2.

    People and governments in poor countries are too concerned with survival to care much about the environment. It’s easy to say that forests should not be cleared, but when you live in one and your only viable hope for survival is to clear cut land and plant crops, it’s a whole other matter.

    The best thing we can do to help people in poor countries is to give them access to cheap energy, which would enable them to develop their economies, reallocate labor from agriculture to other industries, get access to clean water, establish good health and medical practices, etc. Only then would it make sense to them to clean up the environment.

    On a related note, we should also have let them use DDT; it could have saved millions of lives.

    All in all, I’ve got to say that the EPA did a bang-up job cleaning our environment, in a surprisingly short amount of time. I don’t think my kids quite believe me when I tell them that in the 70s, our air was rated as unhealthy many days of the year.

    But, like all bureaucracies, the EPA expanded its mission once the original mission was mostly accomplished. I wish there were a way to keep accomplishing its mission without making so much mischief (including toxic spills it committed itself)

    That’s not to say that things are perfect; we still need regulation and well-thought out improvements. But we just can’t compare our pollution to that in poorer countries.

    Two of my children illustrate today’s different mindsets of environmentalism. One of them (I’m purposefully omitting gender) buys into all the claims (real and fake) of the green movement, wears t-shirts and hats emblazoned with the politically correct views of the environment, celebrates earth day, wants to be a vegetarian, chastises us for using plastic water bottles, praises us for starting a compost pile, etc.

    Another child never says much about the environment, but whenever we go for a hike, always gathers as much garbage as we can find/carry and hauls it out for proper disposal.

    Which one is the true environmentalist?

  • wayne

    Good stuff.
    -Not a fan of the EPA. It was a progressive-republican invention and ‘we’ don’t even get credit for it. And I would argue a more opposite cause/effect vis a vie the EPA and cleaning-stuff up.
    -“Pollution” is a complex interplay. (much like drug misuse ) I would maintain in-part, crudely stated, “business saw the writing on the wall,” infrastructure doesn’t last forever and has to be rebuilt, production processes develop across time, the externality of “pollution” was upsetting people and govt+business imposed on us all, in large measure, via EPA regulations, a Tax on pollution.
    The huge problem we face, we accomplished the first 90% of “pollution reduction,” but the Zealots want that last 10%, no matter what, even if that includes killing you.

    Huge Topic– would require a 3 hour Archetypical analysis by Jordan Peterson! (HA)

  • wayne

    lest I forget, Good Stuff, as well!

  • 1201AlarmSameType

    On a lighter note…

    George Carlin on the Earth and Plastic.

  • pzatchok

    Don’t believe China has moved to a capitalist economy.

    They are a sort of capitalist economy.

    The upper sector of the Party are the ones who own those large companies. You must be a member in good standing to own. Any company wishing to open in China must have partial Chinese ownership. And only the upper members of the party have the power and cash to make the buy in.

    Of course they will allow lower members of the Party to own and open small stores and restaurants but they must be members in good standing.
    The same with owning land and farms.

    Russian oligarchs are the same as Chinese oligarchs.
    The country is still a one Party dictatorship whose top leader has just now accepted the leadership of all three central powers. Political leadership, military leadership and economic leadership.
    China separated them to try to stop a dictatorship from happening even though they always wanted a one Party rule system.He has just recombined them. How? What companies does he secretly own? How is he quietly forcing this?

  • wayne

    “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism”
    Emmanuel Goldstein

  • Andrew_W

    Garry, NZ, and there’s a bit of an obsession to ban plastic items like plastic drinking straws, plastic grocery bags etc that’s unjustified in my opinion.

  • pzatchok

    The lefts excuse for those nations is that they are just making that pollution because the US is buying all of it.

    If we never bought anything from them they would be far cleaner than we are.

    Its like the left doesn’t think those nations want some of those products or don’t have the technology to clean up their own waste.

    Sort of like their idea that native Americans were a free, living peaceful, live in harmony with nature people. They had war for all the same reasons white men did, they took slaves, imposed “taxes” on weaker tribes and altered the land to farm.

  • Gene

    How much does the United States produce (GDP) and effectively deal with (the amount of plastic trash) compared (per-capita) to these other countries? A cleanliness ratio that includes a productivity adjustment.

  • Garry

    Andrew, the key word you used was “obsession.” I see nothing wrong with trying to limit one’s use of anything that can be a pollutant or just wasteful. I wish restaurants wouldn’t automatically include a straw in my water or soft drink; I never use them and it’s a waste to just put one out without asking me. Better would be to bring drinks without straws, and provide them on the table as they did in the old fashioned soda shops.

    Yet plastic straws can be a godsend to, for example, elderly who have trouble swallowing. They were a godsend to me for the 6 months after an Army dentist put a cap on my chipped tooth, piercing the tooth’s nerve in the process and rending it very cold sensitive. I was afraid to go back to that particular dental clinic, and waited until my next duty station (when the Navy dentist who gave me pulled off the cap before giving me a merciful root canal ran out of the room laughing, saying “I have to show my buddies this one”). I even kept plastic straws in my glove compartment, so that I could enjoy a cold beverage without excruciating pain.

    I see that the UK is trying to ban plastic straws outright. I disagree on principle with a local ordinance that would prohibit restaurants from providing plastic straws unless asked by patrons, but I would understand it; on the other hand, an outright ban is simply insanity.

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