In 2016, the U.S. generated 42 million metric tons of plastic waste, more than any other country in the world. This startling number is one of the key takeaways from a recent study in Science Advances, The United States’ contribution of plastic waste to land and ocean, by Law et. al. The study analyzes not only generation but also the impact of where America’s plastic waste ends up. Researchers found that in 2016, the amount of plastic waste generated in the U.S. estimated to enter the coastal environment — either illegally dumped in the U.S. or collected in the U.S. for recycling and exported to countries where it was inadequately managed — was among the highest in the world.

This flips on its head the plastics industry’s talking points, and even the U.S. EPA’s talking points, that blame Asian countries for plastic pollution overall. The numbers in the new report run counter to that accusation. In reality, the U.S. adds to the waste management problems of countries like India, Malaysia, and Indonesia because we unload our waste onto their lack of sustainable infrastructure.

“Without waste management infrastructure improvements,” a related research group wrote in a 2015 study, “the quantity of plastic waste entering the ocean from land is predicted to increase by an order of magnitude by 2025.” The new report expands this previous inquiry by focusing on the relationship between plastic pollution and inadequate waste management.

Read the full article about plastic pollution in the United States by Jennie Romer and Lily Iserson at Surfrider Foundation.