There was a time when ocean trash came mostly from South America, finding its way into the tropical currents that wash flotsam and jetsam thousands of miles. But those days are gone. With manufacturing information printed directly on the trash, which mostly consists of water bottles, we know exactly where the stuff came from, and there’s a surprising twist.
While originating from China isn’t surprising, given that the Asian nation exports the most stuff on the planet, scientists estimate there’s no way the recent stuff, which was made in the last two years, could’ve found its way from mainland China to remote, inaccessible islands.
That only leaves one possibility, Chinese ships are either dumping or losing the cargo.
“By 2009, Asia had surpassed South America as the major source of bottles, and by 2018, Asian bottles comprised 73% of accumulated and 83% of newly arrived bottles, with most made in China.”
“The recent manufacture dates indicate that few bottles could have drifted from Asia, and presumably are dumped from ships, in contravention of International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships regulations. Our results question the widely held assumption that most plastic debris at sea comes from land-based sources.”