The United States contributes much more to ocean plastic pollution than previously estimated, according to a In this April 23, 2019, aerial photo, plastic bottles and other garbage float in river Drina near Visegrad, eastern Bosnia-Herzegovina.In 2016, the U.S. recycled just 9% of its total plastic waste. About half of this was recycled domestically and half was shipped overseas. The researchers estimate that up to 1 million metric tons of U.S. plastic waste entered the environment from these exports in 2016.“For years, so much of the plastic we have put into the blue bin has been exported for recycling to countries that struggle to manage their own waste, let alone the vast amounts delivered from the United States,” said Kara Lavender Law, research professor of oceanography at Sea Education Association and lead A man scavenges along a river for household plastic waste to be sold for recycling in Jakarta on Sept. 23, 2020.To help tackle ocean plastic pollution, the U.S. Senate passed the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act earlier this year.“The Save Our Seas 2.0 is a key stepping stone in the right direction toward comprehensive solutions that address marine debris. But in its current form, however, it does not address the reduction step that is critically needed … for us to get a handle on this,” said Nick Mallos, senior director of Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas program and a co-author of the study, during a press conference. “Reducing plastic waste is critical to avoiding an unmanageable plastic future globally.”Although plastic pollution is a global problem, researchers say that individual actions can make a difference.“Doing everything you can to reduce your own plastic footprint, whether that’s using a reusable shopping bag or a reusable coffee mug, and then just sort of minimizing the single use plastics you use can be part of the solution,” said Ocean Conservancy’s Leonard.

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