Only five Asian countries - China, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia - are responsible for 60 percent of the plastics that are thrown into the oceans each year and threaten the global marine ecosystem.
Among the five nations they account for 5.3 of the 8.8 million metric tons that are dumped annually into the sea, and of which up to 3.53 million correspond exclusively to China, the continental giant, the journal Science pointed out in a report.
The main reason why China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand are the main pollutants of plastics in the sea is their rapid economic growth, with the consequent increase in consumption and waste.
Another Ocean Conservancy report, prior to the celebration of World Water Day tomorrow, neither the waste management systems nor the recycling infrastructures of these countries are developing at the same rate, so that a considerable part of the garbage ends up in the sea.
One of the direct effects of the presence of all types of plastics in the oceans is the death of a large number of marine animals due to ingestion or strangulation due to the huge number of bags, bottles, cannulas or caps that are in the waters.
According to data from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, about 100,000 specimens of marine fauna die every year for this reason.
In the case of the Philippines, it is estimated that 20 percent of plastic waste reaches the sea, that is, about 550,000 tons per year.
"Recycling in the Philippines is practically non-existent", explains to Efe Paeng López, representative of the Global Anti-incineration Alliance (GAIA, its acronym in English), which advocates an improvement in the garbage processing system.
“There are many, many weaknesses in waste management in the Philippines: from the way it is collected, how it is transported and the landfills to where it is taken,” says López.
"The chances of some waste reaching the sea in all this process are very high," he adds.
For groups like the Philippine Marine Fauna Observatory, estimates are below reality and there are significant sources of pollution that are not being taken into account.
"For example, there is no mention of the amount of plastic thrown into the sea by all the boats that constantly sail from one island to another in the Philippines," AA Yaptinchay, the founder of this group that defends one of the greatest Philippine treasures, explains to Efe: the great variety and richness of its seabed.
"From large passenger ferries to small traditional ships, none have a system to dispose of their waste, so the vast majority of them dump it directly into the sea," Yaptinchay says.
The problem with microbeads
Another problem that causes pollution of the oceans and that greatly affects marine fauna, says Yaptinchay, are microbeads, tiny pieces of plastic that are included in some cosmetic products and that some countries, such as the US, have already banned for its damaging effect on the environment.
"The small microbeads are a big problem that ends up in the sea and that can even ingest plankton, which ends up contaminating the entire marine food chain," says the activist.
Plastic pollution not only affects countless marine animals, but ultimately toxic substances end up in the human body.
"The chemicals used to make plastics are ingested by the fish that we end up eating ourselves," Yaptinchay clarifies.
For the activist, the Philippines has the necessary laws to control that plastics do not reach the ocean, but it is not doing enough to enforce them, something that "in the end affects the entire planet."
"Ocean currents make plastics move very easily and therefore it is not only our waters that we are polluting, it is the waters of all the countries of the world," he says.
Photo: A boy jumps among the rubbish carried by the sea to the coast of Manila. EFE / F.R. Malasig