Asia Pacific accounts for 82% of ocean plastic, 46% of Italian food

04 December 2019 3 min. read
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Asia has served as the headline region for two international reports from professional services firm Deloitte, as both the biggest exporter of marine plastic and biggest importer of Italian food.

In separate reports, two European offices of Deloitte have pointed to Asia as the greatest source for ocean plastic and the biggest lovers of Italian cuisine – although no link has been drawn between the pollution and takeaway pasta. In the reports, the Dutch office of Deloitte has found Asia to be responsible for 82% of global plastic waste flowing from land, while the firm’s Italian branch has revealed that Asia accounts for 46% of the worldwide market for Italian foods.

Ocean plastic

In an economic impact study conducted for anti-pollution non-profit The Ocean Cleanup by official knowledge partner Deloitte, the professional services firm concluded a cost of up to $19 billion in 2018 for 87 coastal countries due to marine plastic waste – with source nations in Asia contributing 82% of the land-to-ocean litter and bearing 86% of the sum, which included clean-up expenses, tourism industry set-backs, and revenue loss in the fisheries & aquaculture sector.

In terms of the limited scope of the analysis, the authors note that this is however a highly conservative figure, not taking into account the multitude of flow-on effects and costly impacts to human health. It should also be noted that a number of Asian nations serve as the dumping ground for the world’s waste – both voluntarily, through imported recyclables, and involuntarily, as a destination point for plastic waste originally flowing from oceans to land.

Asia accounts for 86 percent of global land-origin plastic damages

Still, of the upper $19 billion global economic figure estimated by Deloitte, the clean-up costs (collecting waste from rivers, ports, marinas and coastlines) incurred by 19 Asian countries were by far the biggest factor, contributing as much as $14 billion to the overall total. Inaction towards management of floating plastic debris, in Deloitte’s model, then contributes to loss of revenue for the fisheries & aquaculture and tourism sectors, totalling up to $2.3 billion in Asia alone.

“If nothing happens, costs will rise in coming years,” conclude the authors, who believe that their research can be used as a tool for evaluating potential solutions for the prevention or interception of floating plastic before it enters the marine environment. “For many local and central governments, however, it is difficult to find the resources and funds necessary to support the level of service provision required to ensure that land based water sources are free of litter.”

Italian Food

Meanwhile, in an entirely unrelated report, the Deloitte office in Italy has revealed that the global market for Italian food has grown by nearly 11 percent on 2016 figures to $253 billion – with the Asia Pacific proving the biggest driver and now accounting for 46 percent of sales. Performed in conjunction with Alma, the International School of Italian Cuisine, the research found that sales of Italian food in China now outstrip those in the US and Italy, totalling $78 billion last year.

Despite this figure, China had one of the lower international penetration rates for Italian food, at 15.8 percent, compared to 35.7 percent in the US (and presumably 100% in Italy), indicating plenty of room for continued growth. “The consumption of meals outside the home is widespread in Asia Pacific thanks to the convenient offer of street stalls, which are confirmed as the best performing channel in the region,” said Deloitte Italy partner Tommaso Nastasi.

Yet, while full-service restaurants remain for now the largest sales channel for Italian food at the international level, the report notes that that the rapidly-growing global food take-away and delivery market will amount to an estimated $100 billion in 2019 – increasing consumer demand on restaurants, supermarkets and other suppliers for greater sustainability, including information on the origin of products and – importantly – eco-friendly, plastic-free packaging and utensils.