The increase in plastic production has become a serious problem worldwide. Although recycling has become more widely available in recent years, much of the plastic materials produced over the last 70 years has ended up in landfills, and often ends up in water supplies, causing devastating environmental pollution.
One of the most infamous examples of plastic pollution is the Great Pacific garbage patch. This is an area in the Pacific Ocean with a concentration of plastic waste stretching more than a million square kilometers. It can take hundreds of years for plastic to breakdown in water and often the subsequent fragments, macro- and micro-plastics, can enter the environment and eventually be ingested into the bodies of living organisms, including humans.
Prior to 2018, China was the leading destination for plastic waste exports. However, at the beginning of that year, China decided it would no longer take plastic waste and other recyclables from foreign countries. This put pressure on major exporting countries such as the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom to find new waste destinations. With China no longer an option, other nations, especially in South East Asia, began to increase plastic waste imports. By the end of 2018, Malaysia was the leading destination for waste exports.