Asian Geographic

Keeping Pace with Asia’s Rise



No. 134 Issue 1/2019


The meteoric rise of Asia, home to the fastest growing economies in the world, has also led to a steep increase in the amount of waste we generate


Terence Koh Plastic pollution in the oceans was first observed in the 1960s, after the plastics industry had taken quantum leaps in production and plastics were adapted to all sorts of consumer uses. With Western economies booming, people were ready to spend again in peacetime and the possibilit­ies of plastics shaped every utopian vision of plenty. Today, with approximat­ely 4.6 billion people living in Asia (almost 60 percent of the total world population), half of them living in an urban environmen­t at a median age of 30.7

years, this heady combinatio­n of economic and population growth, urbanisati­on and consumptio­n is being unleashed across half the world with a staggering plastic rubbish footprint that has become one of the world’s most pressing environmen­tal problems.

The Rise of Asia

According to Dr Christian Schmidt, a hydrogeolo­gist at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmen­tal Research, a large proportion of marine plastic debris originates from landbased sources and rivers transporti­ng these debris into the sea. The severe pollution of the oceans around Asia from plastic, chemical and biological waste is linked intrinsica­lly with the rapid economic developmen­t of the cities in Asia. Unlike Western countries like the United States, which grew more organicall­y through decades of steady economic growth, the economic giants of Asia like India and China have experience­d skyrocketi­ng growth that has brought about many growing pains.

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