Share This Post

Travel

Which countries produce the most plastic waste?

Which countries produce the most plastic waste?

The US and UK produce the most plastic waste per person than any other major country, according to new research

Plastic waste is polluting the entire planet. It has been found in the Mariana Trench (the deepest point in the ocean), falling from the sky in Arctic snow, embedded in Antarctic ice and secreted in the Alpine soils of Switzerland.

The UN Environment Programme has said that if current trends continue, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050.

It is widely recognised that plastic harms wildlife, but concern is also growing about the volume of microplastics humans consume in their food and water. One study found that the average person eats at least 50,000 particles of microplastic a year. Plastic fibres have even been found in 83% of tap water around the world.

A container ship loads plastic waste on board
Parilov/Shutterstock Exporting plastic waste conceals a country’s true impact

Previous research has suggested that Asian countries, particularly those with coastal communities, are responsible for the highest quantities of plastic pollution with China, Indonesia and Vietnam among the worst culprits.

However, a recent report drawing on World Bank data and published in the journal Science Advances suggests that the US and UK produce the most plastic waste per person than any other major country.

“Around the world, one million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute, while 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide every year. In total, half of all plastic produced is designed to be used only once — and then thrown away… If current trends continue, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050.”

UN Environment Programme

Unlike previous studies, the latest report assessed how much plastic waste is exported as well as how much littering and illegal dumping takes place. Drawing on data from 2016 – the latest available – the report shows that over half of plastic waste collected for recycling in the US was exported overseas. Researchers said that years of exporting had concealed the US’s immense contribution to plastic pollution.

Other high-income countries such as the UK, South Korea and several European Union nations also have large plastic waste footprints per capita.

“The US is 4% of the world’s population, yet it produces 17% of its plastic waste. The US needs to play a much bigger role in addressing the global plastic pollution crisis.”

Nick Mallos, Ocean Conservancy

Even though China and India may have the world’s largest populations, and China may be the world’s largest manufacturer of plastic, both countries rank behind the US in terms of generating plastic waste. And when it comes to plastic waste generation per capita, China and India are ranked 18th and 19th respectively.

It’s worth noting that even among the worst offenders there are large disparities. The UK’s close neighbour France produces just under 44kg of plastic waste per person – less than half of that generated by Britons – even though the two countries have similar-sized populations.

France has taken a proactive stand against single-use plastic, including the introduction of a penalty scheme that increased the cost of non-recyclable plastics and banning plastic packaging for nearly all fruit and vegetables from 2022. The disparity clearly demonstrates what can be achieved through more stringent government policy.

Countries with the highest total plastic waste production

The 20 countries with the highest total plastic waste production, measured in metric tons.

  1. USA, 34,020,748 metric tons
  2. India, 26,327,933
  3. China, 21,599,465
  4. Brazil, 10,675,989
  5. Indonesia, 9,128,000
  6. Russia, 8,467,156
  7. Germany, 6,683,412
  8. UK, 6,471,650
  9. Mexico, 5,902,490
  10. Japan, 4,881,161
  11. Thailand, 4,796,494
  12. South Korea, 4,514,186
  13. Italy, 3,365,130
  14. Egypt, 3,037,675
  15. France, 2,929,042
  16. Pakistan, 2,731,768
  17. Argentina, 2,656,771
  18. Algeria, 2,092,007
  19. Malaysia, 2,058,501
  20. Spain, 1,832,533

Plastic waste Per capita

Among the 20 nations with the highest total plastic waste production, the US and UK produce the most plastic waste per person, per year. Roll over the map below to reveal a country’s per capita plastic waste generation in kilograms.

  1. USA, 105kg per person, per year
  2. UK, 99kg
  3. South Korea, 88kg
  4. Germany, 81kg
  5. Thailand, 70kg
  6. Malaysia, 67kg
  7. Argentina, 61kg
  8. Russia, 59kg
  9. Italy, 56kg
  10. Brazil, 52kg
  11. Algeria, 52kg
  12. Mexico, 48kg
  13. France, 44kg
  14. Spain, 39kg
  15. Japan, 38kg
  16. Indonesia, 35kg
  17. Egypt, 32kg
  18. India, 20kg
  19. China, 16kg
  20. Pakistan, 13kg

Complete ranking

Below is the complete ranking of the countries that produce the most plastic waste. The table can be sorted by total plastic waste production in metric tons (t) or waste production per person, per year, in kilograms (kg).

Country Total (t) Per capita (kg)
USA 34,020,748 105
India 26,327,933 20
China 21,599,465 16
Brazil 10,675,989 52
Indonesia 9,128,000 35
Russia 8,467,156 59
Germany 6,683,412 81
UK 6,471,650 99
Mexico 5,902,490 48
Japan 4,881,161 38
Thailand 4,796,494 70
South Korea 4,514,186 88
Italy 3,365,130 56
Egypt 3,037,675 32
France 2,929,042 44
Pakistan 2,731,768 13
Argentina 2,656,771 61
Algeria 2,092,007 52
Malaysia 2,058,501 67
Spain 1,832,533 39
Saudi Arabia 1,810,101 56
Colombia 1,728,873 36
Nigeria 1,659,502 9
Philippines 1,543,668 15
Iran 1,500,585 19
South Africa 1,425,323 25
Vietnam 1,404,873 15
Taiwan 1,392,828 59
Poland 1,341,572 35
Kazakhstan 1,281,505 72
Kenya 1,279,843 26
Netherlands 1,251,114 73
Hong Kong SAR 1,199,187 163
Venezuela 1,160,801 39
DR Congo 1,078,892 14
Ukraine 1,053,523 23
Australia 1,035,084 43
UAE 1,028,556 110
Turkey 959,515 12
Israel 958,005 112
Peru 919,222 30
Switzerland 911,616 109
Myanmar 856,961 16
Tanzania 814,511 15
Singapore 807,202 144
Greece 789,092 73
Canada 769,984 21
Bangladesh 764,951 5
Iraq 738,899 20
Chile 707,903 39
Belgium 663,511 59
Angola 651,928 23
Uganda 636,506 16
Romania 615,756 31
Ecuador 607,148 37
Morocco 570,102 16
Austria 542,461 62
Cote d’Ivoire 541,453 23
Portugal 512,057 50
Belarus 507,334 53
Guatemala 488,396 29
Yemen 483,682 18
Hungary 483,046 49
Moldova 462,287 130
Kuwait 458,078 116
Jordan 446,941 47
Mongolia 420,500 138
Dominican Rep. 420,276 40
Zimbabwe 413,802 29
Afghanistan 405,254 11
Oman 405,081 90
Ireland 391,496 82
Croatia 385,686 92
Sudan 371,123 9
Bulgaria 370,493 52
Rwanda 328,873 28
Honduras 311,548 34
Zambia 305,198 19
Tunisia 303,846 27
Serbia 295,230 42
Haiti 293,351 27
Sweden 291,292 29
Madagascar 282,657 11
New Zealand 270,550 58
Cuba 270,533 24
Syrian 269,480 15
Nepal 267,823 10
Lebanon 247,112 37
Burkina Faso 239,327 13
Bolivia 232,092 21
West Bank & Gaza 231,307 53
Azerbaijan 228,304 23
Senegal 220,865 15
Paraguay 214,189 32
South Sudan 214,119 20
Ghana 211,518 7
Nicaragua 205,548 33
Slovak Rep. 199,500 37
Mozambique 198,365 7
Panama 181,993 45
Libya 181,482 28
Sri Lanka 180,701 9
El Salvador 178,687 28
Tajikistan 176,179 20
Somalia 174,457 12
Costa Rica 167,858 34
Qatar 167,332 63
Ethiopia 154,743 1
Bosnia & Herz. 141,879 42
Trinidad & Tobago 140,174 102
Uruguay 139,881 41
Lithuania 134,043 47
Jamaica 128,307 44
Kyrgyzstan 126,059 21
Cameroon 119,518 5
Togo 116,946 16
Slovenia 115,628 56
Uzbekistan 115,565 4
Mauritania 114,598 28
Albania 113,099 39
North Macedonia 110,725 53
Malawi 106,140 6
Papua New Guinea 105,241 13
Burundi 103,253 10
Benin 102,301 9
Cambodia 99,748 6
Chad 98,746 7
Estonia 88,500 67
Congo 87,635 18
Niger 85,628 4
Central African Rep. 83,041 18
Cyprus 81,473 70
Czech Rep. 74,573 7
Denmark 72,896 13
Bahrain 70,444 49
Latvia 66,600 34
Luxembourg 64,974 112
Montenegro 62,544 101
Sierra Leone 62,190 8
Eritrea 58,069 12
Armenia 57,174 19
Mauritius 54,254 43
Liberia 54,221 12
Norway 49,878 10
Namibia 49,176 21
Iceland 48,572 145
Mali 44,152 2
Solomon Is. 42,950 69
Finland 40,159 7
Gabon 39,585 20
Guinea 37,647 3
Kosovo 35,561 20
Brunei Dar. 34,600 82
Bahamas 34,313 91
Micronesia 33,974 308
Malta 32,453 71
Barbados 30,569 107
Macao SAR 29,857 49
Guyana 28,750 37
Georgia 25,637 7
Botswana 24,741 11
Gambia 22,631 11
Guinea-Bissau 22,323 13
Laos 22,232 3
Eswatini 21,384 19
Bhutan 19,844 27
Belize 19,464 53
Eq. Guinea 19,447 16
Djibouti 17,521 19
St. Lucia 17,239 96
Fiji 15,471 18
Aruba 13,899 133
Cabo Verde 13,707 26
Turkmenistan 12,400 2
Timor-Leste 10,539 9
Suriname 9,087 16
Lesotho 8,622 4
St. Kitts & Nevis 7,744 150
Maldives 6,740 14
Kiribati 5,894 52
Seychelles 5,338 56
Grenada 5,307 48
Andorra 4,926 64
Comoros 4,657 6
Vanuatu 4,530 16
Antigua & Bar. 4,321 46
Samoa 3,765 19
Palau 3,017 170
St. Vincent & Gren. 2,668 24
Sao Tome & Prin. 2,646 13
Tonga 2,392 24
Dominica 2,167 30
Liechtenstein 1,916 51
Marshall Is. 1,127 20
San Marino 962 29
Nauru 888 68
Tuvalu 658 59
Monaco 507 13


Enjoyed this post? pin it for later…

Which countries produce the most plastic waste Pinterest pin

Lead image: Larina Marina/shutterstock

You might also like:

Share This Post

Leave a Reply