OLIVIA AMEZCUA WRITES — After countless reports this past week about UN scientists’ prediction that mankind has 12 years left to save the world from irreversible climate change, it seems appropriate to analyze Asia’s involvement in this nightmare – given the continent’s large contribution to pollution and pollution’s large contribution to climate change.
MOST POLLUTED RIVERS & COUNTRIES
In June 2018, it was reported that 90% of plastic pollution of the world’s oceans comes from 10 rivers, 8 of which are in Asia: Yangtze, Indus, Yellow, Hai He, Granges, Pearl, Amur, and Mekong. Dr. Christian Schmidt of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research identified two commonalities among all ten rivers: a dense population surrounding alongside a poor waste management process.
As reported in 2015, 2016, and April 2018, five Asian countries dump more plastic into oceans than the rest of the world combined. These countries are China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. Plastic is viewed as one of the greatest environmental challenges— killing marine life, upsetting ecosystems, and choking birds as well as enabling toxic fragments to end up in the seafood we consume. With Indonesia’s Citarum River blackening from pollution, it is no wonder the army had to be employed to remove all the plastic waste.
MOST ECO-FRIENDLY COUNTRIES
All is not lost, though. Although Asia has become infamous for pollution, some countries have achieved notable levels of eco-friendliness. In 2013, Japan was ranked as the top Asian country in the global sustainability index. Yet Japan was the only Asian country to make the top 20 ranking, placing twelfth among 176 countries. The next two Asian countries to rank as eco-friendly countries were South Korea, placing 30th and Singapore, placing 32nd. However, now, in 2018, the Environmental Performance Index ranked Singapore fourteenth in environmental sustainability. This marked improvement has been attributed to the former prime minister’s commitment to eco-friendly agendas; for example, the city-state is committed to reduced energy use, the construction of green buildings, and implementation of innovative, environmentally conscious city structures.
ENCOURAGING RECENT DEVELOPMENT
If recent reports scare you, however, continue to celebrate and commend efforts around the world to aid the environment. Below are news stories about Asian countries’ strides toward a plastic-free Earth:
- Thailand to ban foreign plastic waste from 2021 as South East Asia buckles under waste influx
- Burger King Singapore to stop providing plastic lids and straws for drinks
- Plastic bag fees to be mandatory for Japanese retailers
- Malaysia to enact scrap import tax and restrictions
- Casinos, beach parties and plastic bags banned as Philippine island ruined by tourism reopens
- Malaysia to ban single-use plastic
- InterContinental Hotels Group pledges to remove plastic straws from hotels globally
And on a last note, we should probably do our part and purchase reusable straws, if we haven’t already.