Up to 95 per cent of plastic polluting the world’s oceans pours in from just ten rivers, according to new research.
It said that the top 10 rivers – eight of which are in Asia – accounted for much of the plastic waste – 88 to 95 per cent of the total global load because of the mismanagement of waste.
Massive amounts of plastic bits that imperil aquatic life are washing into the oceans and even the most pristine waters.
The team calculated halving plastic pollution in these waterways could potentially reduce the total contribution by all rivers by 45 per cent.
Dr Christian Schmidt, a hydrogeologist at Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Leipzig, Germany, said: ‘A substantial fraction of marine plastic debris originates from land-based sources and rivers potentially act as a major transport pathway for all sizes of plastic debris.’
His team analysed data on debris from 79 sampling sites along 57 rivers – both microplastic particles measuring less than 5 mm and macroplastic above this size.
They said microplastics in particular can damage the health of marine life but cleaning it all up would be impossible. However, stemming the tide could help reduce the potential harm.
Dr Schmidt said to do this, researchers need a better understanding of how plastic makes its way into the oceans in the first place.
The study follows a recent report that pointed the finger at China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam for spewing out most of the plastic waste that enters the seas.
The Yangtze has been estimated in previous research to dump some 727 million pounds of plastic into the sea each year. The Ganges River in India is responsible for even more – about 1.2 billion pounds.
The report said that countries such as China or India could greatly reduce the plastic pollution of rivers by implementing proper waste management.
Pollution costs more than $7.9 billion in damage to marine ecosystems and kills an estimated one million sea birds, 100,000 sea mammals and untold numbers of fish.
Top Ten polluting rivers are:
Yangtze East China Sea Asia
Indus Arabian Sea Asia
Yellow River Yellow Sea Asia
Hai He Yellow Sea Asia
Nile Mediterranean Africa
Ganges Bay of Bengal Asia
Pearl River South China Sea Asia
Amur Sea of Okhotsk Asia
Niger Gulf of Guinea Africa
Mekong South China Sea Asia