Jul 18, 2019 | Updated: 09:53 AM EDT

5 Asian Countries That Seriously Pollute Waterways

May 14, 2019 01:48 PM EDT

Bird with plastics nest
(Photo : Image by A_Different_Perspective from
Bluewater Oasis
(Photo : Image from The Triton)
The Kommon Goods starter kit
(Photo : Image from The Kommon Goods)
Plastic bag pollution
(Photo : Image by Ben Kerckx from
Beach cleanup
(Photo : Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Indonesia is home to the most polluted river in the world, the Citarum River­. According to media reports, the situation has gotten so dire that military action has recently been taken to remove the plastic waste-and stop further dumping of garbage into the river. However, this is just a small fraction of Asia's pollution problem. China, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam are dumping more plastic into oceans than the rest of the world combined , according to a 2017 report by Ocean Conservancy. This isn't only a problem for Asian countries, but the world as a whole. The US wasted about 33.6 million tons of plastic, and only 9.5 percent had been recycled.

Not only is plastic detrimental to marine life and seabirds, it is also possible for toxic fragments from plastic to be found in the seafood we eat. It also takes ages for plastics to break down. However, all hope isn't lost. The best way to avoid such large amounts of plastic waste is to monitor consumption.

Here are four basic techniques that you can use daily, along with some new innovations by start-up companies that may help minimize plastic waste.

First, try to use filtered water rather than bottled water. This may be the toughest habit for people in Asia to kick, but one Swedish company, called Bluewater, has created a water filtration system that is both energy efficient and readily available via kiosk like dispensers placed in public areas. The company hopes to increase the access of filtered water to the public and break the notion that bottled water is safer to drink than properly filtered water.

"It's possible to consume water in a sustainable way and also one that tastes better," says Bluewater CEO Anders Jacobson.

Another problem facing Asian countries is the amount of plastic waste that is incorporated with food services. From street vendors in Vietnam and Thailand to widely used food-delivery services throughout Asia. One e-commerce startup that is joining the battle against the massive amounts of waste generated from disposable utensils is Hong Kong-based The Kommon Goods, which produces eco-friendly lifestyle products to disperse to businesses, hotel chains and college campuses. The kit includes bamboo chopsticks, reusable cutlery, a stainless steel water bottle and metal straws and the cleaner is included.

"We've been so hardwired in Asia to prioritize convenience above all else. But being eco-conscious is as simple as saying you won't need extra cutlery the next time you get takeout," says Alvin Li, social advocate and Cofounder of Kommon Goods. "Six million tons of non-durable plastics-basically cutlery-gets discarded every year. It is estimated that by the year 2050, plastic in the ocean will outweigh fish," he adds.

One global movement is the banning of plastic bags, those used for grocery shopping and trash disposal, as well as other single-use plastic products. Last year, a third of the 1.67 million tons of domestic waste disposed in Singapore was comprised of packaging waste, predominantly plastic bags and food packaging. That amount is enough to fill more than 1,000 Olympic-size swimming pools, according to a Channel News Asia report. Taiwan is moving to ban all one-time use plastic, including bags, beverage cups and cutlery issued by restaurants and businesses by 2030. It has already taken steps to ban single-use plastic straws.

At last, one of the most sure-fire ways to ensure that you will make a difference is through personal action. A group called One Island One Voice recently led a massive effort with over 20,000 people gathering to clean up 120 beaches around the popular Indonesian island of Bali.

You can also get involved by joining large organizations like the International Coastal Cleanup, which provide the tools to organize beach cleanups at a local level.

"In our daily life, personal action can always be taken by returning excessive plastic packages to a corporation, or sending letters to [companies] to request for plastic free alternatives. Going plastic free starts individually, before it extends to corporations and the community," says Sion Chan, Plastic Campaigner at Greenpeace.

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