8 million tons is the amount of plastic waste that enters the ocean each year. That is in addition to the estimated 5 trillion pieces of plastic already in the ocean — and if we carry on on our current trajectory, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050.
While plastic pollution is a global issue, it is estimated that China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam are dumping more plastic into oceans than the rest of the world combined.
An essential step to solve the problem, is increasing waste management where the problem is greatest. Waste management often fails because of weak implementation and a lack of leadership support.
The Philippines for example has quite a strong law addressing waste management. The Ecological Solid Waste Management Act mandates that all local government units decentralize garbage collection. For instance, the law requires that every village must set up a materials recovery facility (MRF). But as of 2017, less than a quarter of the country’s 40,000+ villages have working MRFs and the complaints of this non-compliance are going unheard.
There is a bright spot. The small city of San Fernando in the northern Philippines that was once covered in litter is recognized as the first city to comply with the Philippines waste management law and has become a model city for the Zero Waste movement. As a result, since 2012, it has been able to divert 70% of its waste away from the dumpsite, and to good use.
San Fernando has shown that it is possible to implement a national law and decrease waste at a local level. It has reduced landfills, generated more jobs, and enhanced community health and safety. We must call on mayors in other cities in the Philippines to follow suit and join the Zero Waste movement to take tangible action that prevents plastic entering the ocean in their municipality.