Mr Siegler said researchers had assessed waste disposal practices in countries around the world and used their “best professional judgment” to determine the lowest and highest amounts of plastic waste likely to occur. escape into the environment. They opted for a range of 25% to 75%.
Tony Walker, associate professor at Dalhousie University School for Resource and Environmental Studies in Halifax, Nova Scotia, said analyzing waste data can be a “data minefield” because it doesn’t there are no data standards in municipalities. Additionally, once plastic waste is shipped overseas, he said, data is often not recorded at all.
Nonetheless, Dr Walker, who was not involved in the study, said it could offer more accurate accounting of plastic pollution than the previous study, which likely underestimated the contribution from the United States. “They gave their best guess, as accurate as possible with this data,” he said, and used ranges, which emphasizes that the numbers are estimates.
Of the plastics that enter the United States recycling system, about 9% of the country’s total plastic waste, there is no guarantee that they will be turned into new consumer goods. The new plastic is so inexpensive to manufacture that only certain expensive, high-quality plastics are profitable to recycle in the U.S. That is why about half of the country’s plastic waste was shipped overseas in 2016, l most recent year for which data are available. .
Since 2016, however, the recycling landscape has changed. China and many countries in Southeast Asia have stopped accepting imports of plastic waste. And the drop in oil prices has further shrunk the recycled plastic market.
“What the new study really highlights is that we need to get source reduction under control at home,” Mallos said. “It starts with eliminating unnecessary and problematic single-use plastics.”