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Adam Minter

How to Solve the Plastic Crisis

Just eight countries are responsible for most ocean plastic. They need help.

Room for improvement.

Room for improvement.

Photographer: Timur Matahari/AFP/Getty Images

Since Jan. 1, when China stopped accepting the rich world's recyclable plastic waste, it's gotten a ton of criticism for worsening the already deep crisis of ocean plastic pollution. But China isn't the only culprit here. This is a crisis made — and growing worse — throughout developing Asia.

Just eight countries in the region are responsible for about 63 percent of total plastic waste flowing into the oceans. Little of that junk has been exported by rich economies. Instead, it's almost solely generated by Asia's newly minted consumer classes, the vast majority of whom lack access to garbage collection, modern landfills and incineration. Any progress in reducing ocean plastic will have to start with them.