Stretching from the Pacific Ocean in the East, to Europe and Africa in the West, Asia's vast expanse is home to an astounding diversity of cultures, natural landscapes, and urban developments. With rapidly growing economies and a rising middle class, the great plastic challenge has arrived in the region. Adding to the significant volume of plastic waste generated in the region, countries in North America and Europe continue to dump their own plastic waste on Asian countries, despite international waste trade laws that prohibit such abuses. The waste management systems and resources in the region are ill equipped to manage the world's plastic waste stream, yet this is the burden the region endures.
Asia is home to more than 4.5 billion people, ranking as the most populated region in the world. While the region covers 30% of Earth's land mass, it accounts for 60% of the worlds population. While waste per capita is significantly below that of developed regions in the North, the waste volumes that are mismanaged are staggering. In fact, a recent study suggests that 15 of the top 20 most polluting rivers in the world are in Asia. This mass of river plastic flows into the world's oceans at unprescedented levels, and sadly these levels are on the rise.
Cities across Asia are joining the Plastic Smart Cities initiative to eliminate plastic in nature by 2030. These cities are leading the region by implementing best practices that prevent, minimize and manage plastic, both as a resource, and as a global threat to their communities.
The amount of plastic entering the ocean is projected to grow four-fold by 2050. Transformative changes, including moving away from single-use towards re-useable packaging, are needed to save our oceans, say Vincent Kneefel and John Duncan.
15 Asian cities and tourist destinations have joined the Plastics Smart Cities initiative. Explore the cities on the map below and learn more about their ambitious plastic targets and action plans.