Keeping Pace with Asia’s Rise

Asian Geographic - - BEST OF CHINA’S ECO-NOMY -

Re­vis­ited

No. 134 Is­sue 1/2019

Ti­tle

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

Text

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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