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United States is world's biggest plastic polluter

Christian Fernsby |
The United States is by far the biggest contributor to global plastic waste in the world, according to a new report submitted to the federal government Wednesday that called for a national strategy to tackle the growing crisis.

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Overall, the U.S. contributed around 42 million metric tons (MMT) in plastic waste in 2016—more than twice as much as China and more than the countries of the European Union combined, according to the analysis.

On average, every American generates 130 kilograms (286 pounds) of plastic waste per year, with Britain next on the list at 99 kilos per person per year, followed by South Korea at 88 kilos per year.

Entitled "Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste," the report was mandated by Congress as part of the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act, which became law in December 2020.

"The success of the 20th century miracle invention of plastics has also produced a global scale deluge of plastic waste seemingly everywhere we look," wrote Margaret Spring, chief science officer of Monterey Bay Aquarium, who chaired the committee of experts that compiled the report.

She added global plastic waste was an "environmental and social crisis" that impacted inland and coastal communities, polluted rivers, lakes and beaches, placed economic burdens on communities, endangered wildlife and contaminated waters that humans depend on for food.

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