Ocean pollution is a phenomenon that we have too little chance to observe, but it is nevertheless a considerable part, especially because of plastic materials. Here is the list of the countries that accumulate the most plastic waste.
Plastic pollution and ocean pollution: two very different things
The production of plastic in the world is counted in millions of cubic meters each year. An astronomical figure, even if some of it is recycled. Another part is incinerated or sent to landfills. But the last part ends up in the world's oceans, and that's what interests us.
It is very important to make the difference between plastic producer, plastic consumer, and ocean polluter. Some countries are responsible for the majority of plastic production, but with the goal of exporting it. Other countries consume a lot of plastic, but send it elsewhere after its usefulness has ended. It is the third group that interests us, those who do not necessarily have an astronomical amount of plastic to manage, but mismanage it, ending up at the bottom of the oceans.
Lourens J.J Meijer is a member of The Ocean Cleanup, an NGO that has been in the news for a few years. Its goal is to develop drainage systems to get rid of the plastic in the oceans, but also in the rivers, where a lot of plastic waste comes from before it reaches the big blue. A research paper by Meijer shows that more than 1,000 rivers are responsible for 80% of plastic emissions into the ocean.
The Visual Capitalist website used a research paper by Meijer and his team to make a very telling graph, representing the share of plastic released into the ocean by country of the world. Here is what it looks like.
Ranking of the biggest polluters of the oceans
Every year, about 1 million cubic meters of plastic is dumped into the ocean, for an estimated total of 68 million cubic meters. Among this figure, here is the share of “responsibility” of each country:
Why such a ranking?
The Philippines is far from being the largest country in the world, nor the biggest producer or consumer of plastic. So why is it far ahead? The reason is due to two main elements:
- The length of the coastline: an archipelago of 7,000 islands, this gives a total length of coastline of 36,289 kilometers. And thus an infinite number of opportunities to dump plastic in the water.
- Waste management: the Philippines are dunces in this field, which gives this bluffing figure. Far from being a rich country, it is often in these places that more developed countries export their plastic waste to get rid of it. Without any infrastructure worthy of the name, how can we expect a different result…
In the end, the Philippines ends up with a “moderate” total amount of plastic waste, but with a huge part of it ending up in the oceans.
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