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Which Countries Pollute the Most Ocean Plastic Waste?

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Ocean plastic waste polluting countries

Visualized: Ocean Plastic Waste Pollution By Country

Millions of metric tons of plastic are produced worldwide every year. While half of this plastic waste is recycled, incinerated, or discarded into landfills, a significant portion of what remains eventually ends up in our oceans.

In fact, many pieces of ocean plastic waste have come together to create a vortex of plastic waste thrice the size of France in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii.

Where does all of this plastic come from? In this graphic, Louis Lugas Wicaksono used data from a research paper by Lourens J.J. Meijer and team to highlight the top 10 countries emitting plastic pollutants in the waters surrounding them.

Plastic’s Ocean Voyage

First, let’s talk about how this plastic waste reaches the oceans in the first place.

Most of the plastic waste found in the deep blue waters comes from the litter in parks, beaches, or along the storm drains lining our streets. These bits of plastic waste are carried into our drains, streams, and rivers by wind and rainwater runoff.

The rivers then turn into plastic superhighways, transporting the plastic to the oceans.

A large additional chunk of ocean plastic comes from damaged fishing nets or ghost nets that are directly discarded into the high seas.

Countries Feeding the Plastic Problem

Some might think that the countries producing or consuming the most plastic are the ones that pollute the oceans the most. But that’s not true.

According to the study, countries with a smaller geographical area, longer coastlines, high rainfall, and poor waste management systems are more likely to wash plastics into the sea.

For example, China generates 10 times the plastic waste that Malaysia does. However, 9% of Malaysia’s total plastic waste is estimated to reach the ocean, in comparison to China’s 0.6%.

RankCountryAnnual Ocean Plastic Waste (Metric tons)
#1🇵🇭 Philippines356,371
#2🇮🇳 India126,513
#3🇲🇾 Malaysia 73,098
#4🇨🇳 China 70,707
#5🇮🇩 Indonesia56,333
#6🇲🇲 Myanmar40,000
#7🇧🇷 Brazil37,799
#8🇻🇳 Vietnam28,221
#9🇧🇩 Bangladesh 24,640
#10🇹🇭 Thailand22,806
🌐 Rest of the World176,012
Total1,012,500

The Philippines—an archipelago of over 7,000 islands, with a 36,289 kilometer coastline and 4,820 plastic emitting rivers—is estimated to emit 35% of the ocean’s plastic.

In addition to the Philippines, over 75% of the accumulated plastic in the ocean is reported to come from the mismanaged waste in Asian countries including India, Malaysia, China, Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Thailand.

The only non-Asian country to make it to this top 10 list, with 1,240 rivers including the Amazon, is Brazil.

The Path to a Plastic-free Ocean

The first, and most obvious, way to reduce plastic accumulation is to reduce the use of plastic. Lesser production equals lesser waste.

The second step is managing the plastic waste generated, and this is where the challenge lies.

Many high-income countries generate high amounts of plastic waste, but are either better at processing it or exporting it to other countries. Meanwhile, many of the middle-income and low-income countries that both demand plastics and receive bulk exports have yet to develop the infrastructure needed to process it.

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Agriculture

The World’s Top Cocoa Producing Countries

Here are the largest cocoa producing countries globally—from Côte d’Ivoire to Brazil—as cocoa prices hit record highs.

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This tree map graphic shows the world's biggest cocoa producers.

The World’s Top Cocoa Producing Countries

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

West Africa is home to the largest cocoa producing countries worldwide, with 3.9 million tonnes of production in 2022.

In fact, there are about one million farmers in Côte d’Ivoire supplying cocoa to key customers such as Nestlé, Mars, and Hershey. But the massive influence of this industry has led to significant forest loss to plant cocoa trees.

This graphic shows the leading producers of cocoa, based on data from the UN FAO.

Global Hotspots for Cocoa Production

Below, we break down the top cocoa producing countries as of 2022:

Country2022 Production, Tonnes
🇨🇮 Côte d'Ivoire2.2M
🇬🇭 Ghana1.1M
🇮🇩 Indonesia667K
🇪🇨 Ecuador337K
🇨🇲 Cameroon300K
🇳🇬 Nigeria280K
🇧🇷 Brazil274K
🇵🇪 Peru171K
🇩🇴 Dominican Republic76K
🌍 Other386K

With 2.2 million tonnes of cocoa in 2022, Côte d’Ivoire is the world’s largest producer, accounting for a third of the global total.

For many reasons, the cocoa trade in Côte d’Ivoire and Western Africa has been controversial. Often, farmers make about 5% of the retail price of a chocolate bar, and earn $1.20 each day. Adding to this, roughly a third of cocoa farms operate on forests that are meant to be protected.

As the third largest producer, Indonesia produced 667,000 tonnes of cocoa with the U.S., Malaysia, and Singapore as major importers. Overall, small-scale farmers produce 95% of cocoa in the country, but face several challenges such as low pay and unwanted impacts from climate change. Alongside aging trees in the country, these setbacks have led productivity to decline.

In South America, major producers include Ecuador and Brazil. In the early 1900s, Ecuador was the world’s largest cocoa producing country, however shifts in the global marketplace and crop disease led its position to fall. Today, the country is most known for its high-grade single-origin chocolate, with farms seen across the Amazon rainforest.

Altogether, global cocoa production reached 6.5 million tonnes, supported by strong demand. On average, the market has grown 3% annually over the last several decades.

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