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Mapped: The Colossal Cost of Plastic Pollution, By Country

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The Cost of Plastic Pollution, By Country

There is now a combined 139 million tons of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans, seas, and rivers, including the world’s number one most littered item: single-use cigarette filters. 

And while we know plastic waste has a massive environmental impact, what are the associated economic costs?

Using estimates developed by Deloitte for The Ocean Cleanup, this data visualization maps the cost of plastic pollution for the third and final piece in the Single-use Plastic Series for our sponsor Greenbutts.

The Price Tag of Plastic Pollution

Deloitte’s 2019 Price Tag of Plastic Pollution study uses a novel assessment model to estimate the economic costs of marine litter, which typically flows from rivers and into the ocean.

The resulting estimates for 87 countries cover direct government costs, and the revenue lost to tourism, and fisheries and aquaculture.

If you take the UK, for example, the direct costs borne by the government were between $7.1 and $31.7 million, but the report estimated the total costs to be between $29.6 and $266.2 million.

Deloitte and the Ocean Cleanup selected countries to include on the basis of the waste density of the subject’s waterways.

Paying the Piper

Every year, plastic pollution costs coastal countries between $6.0 and $19.2 billion

Country or territorySectorLower estimateUpper estimate
AngolaFisheries & Aquaculture$30,000$530,000
AngolaGovernment$30,000$110,000
AngolaTourism$200,000$1,950,000
AlbaniaTourism$150,000$1,480,000
AlbaniaFisheries & Aquaculture$20,000$450,000
AlbaniaGovernment$130,000$490,000
ArgentinaFisheries & Aquaculture$750,000$12,580,000
ArgentinaGovernment$1,500,000$4,420,000
ArgentinaTourism$2,400,000$23,970,000
AustraliaFisheries & Aquaculture$230,000$3,830,000
AustraliaGovernment$680,000$3,030,000
AustraliaTourism$1,450,000$14,530,000
BelgiumFisheries & Aquaculture$170,000$2,820,000
BelgiumGovernment$140,000$590,000
BelgiumTourism$130,000$1,290,000
BeninFisheries & Aquaculture$0$40,000
BeninGovernment$40,000$120,000
BeninTourism$10,000$130,000
BangladeshTourism$330,000$3,310,000
BangladeshFisheries & Aquaculture$1,300,000$21,620,000
BangladeshGovernment$13,350,000$37,970,000
BelizeFisheries & Aquaculture$0$60,000
BelizeTourism$10,000$100,000
BelizeGovernment$0$20,000
BrazilFisheries & Aquaculture$720,000$11,990,000
BrazilGovernment$186,340,000$373,940,000
BrazilTourism$6,970,000$69,690,000
BruneiFisheries & Aquaculture$0$70,000
BruneiGovernment$50,000$230,000
BruneiTourism$30,000$340,000
CanadaFisheries & Aquaculture$1,620,000$27,100,000
CanadaGovernment$2,880,000$12,990,000
CanadaTourism$1,600,000$16,020,000
ChileFisheries & Aquaculture$3,910,000$65,230,000
ChileGovernment$600,000$2,620,000
ChileTourism$660,000$6,610,000
ChinaFisheries & Aquaculture$57,250,000$954,200,000
ChinaGovernment$2,674,690,000$5,853,540,000
ChinaTourism$39,730,000$397,350,000
Côte d'IvoireFisheries & Aquaculture$20,000$440,000
Côte d'IvoireGovernment$290,000$1,240,000
Côte d'IvoireTourism$100,000$990,000
CameroonTourism$50,000$480,000
CameroonFisheries & Aquaculture$0$20,000
CameroonGovernment$610,000$2,470,000
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)Fisheries & Aquaculture$10,000$110,000
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)Government$0$0
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)Tourism$20,000$160,000
ColombiaFisheries & Aquaculture$150,000$2,570,000
ColombiaTourism$620,000$6,160,000
ColombiaGovernment$60,000$230,000
Costa RicaFisheries & Aquaculture$120,000$2,020,000
Costa RicaGovernment$30,000$120,000
Costa RicaTourism$390,000$3,870,000
GermanyFisheries & Aquaculture$2,010,000$33,500,000
GermanyGovernment$3,650,000$12,670,000
GermanyTourism$15,010,000$150,120,000
DenmarkFisheries & Aquaculture$140,000$2,420,000
DenmarkGovernment$810,000$3,630,000
DenmarkTourism$200,000$1,980,000
Dominican RepublicFisheries & Aquaculture$20,000$330,000
Dominican RepublicGovernment$4,630,000$12,030,000
Dominican RepublicTourism$2,070,000$20,710,000
AlgeriaTourism$560,000$5,640,000
AlgeriaFisheries & Aquaculture$0$60,000
AlgeriaGovernment$5,720,000$18,580,000
EcuadorFisheries & Aquaculture$850,000$14,120,000
EcuadorGovernment$420,000$1,500,000
EcuadorTourism$70,000$710,000
EgyptFisheries & Aquaculture$710,000$11,750,000
EgyptGovernment$550,000$1,550,000
EgyptTourism$1,210,000$12,070,000
SpainFisheries & Aquaculture$1,680,000$27,970,000
SpainGovernment$7,660,000$37,320,000
SpainTourism$9,040,000$90,430,000
FranceFisheries & Aquaculture$650,000$10,750,000
FranceGovernment$4,700,000$19,760,000
FranceTourism$6,940,000$69,400,000
UKFisheries & Aquaculture$1,470,000$24,540,000
UKGovernment$7,140,000$31,680,000
UKTourism$21,000,000$209,980,000
GeorgiaFisheries & Aquaculture$0$50,000
GeorgiaGovernment$10,000$40,000
GeorgiaTourism$40,000$370,000
GhanaFisheries & Aquaculture$50,000$830,000
GhanaGovernment$670,000$2,740,000
GhanaTourism$160,000$1,650,000
GuineaFisheries & Aquaculture$0$30,000
GuineaGovernment$20,000$70,000
GuineaTourism$10,000$80,000
GambiaTourism$0$20,000
GambiaFisheries & Aquaculture$0$0
GambiaGovernment$0$0
Guinea-BissauFisheries & Aquaculture$0$20,000
Guinea-BissauGovernment$0$0
Guinea-BissauTourism$0$0
Equatorial GuineaTourism$0$0
Equatorial GuineaFisheries & Aquaculture$0$0
Equatorial GuineaGovernment$20,000$100,000
GreeceTourism$4,290,000$42,920,000
GreeceFisheries & Aquaculture$360,000$5,910,000
GreeceGovernment$1,880,000$8,490,000
GuatemalaTourism$210,000$2,080,000
GuatemalaFisheries & Aquaculture$90,000$1,470,000
GuatemalaGovernment$120,000$200,000
GuyanaFisheries & Aquaculture$30,000$500,000
GuyanaGovernment$20,000$60,000
GuyanaTourism$10,000$70,000
Hong KongFisheries & Aquaculture$450,000$7,550,000
Hong KongGovernment$5,100,000$20,150,000
Hong KongTourism$2,470,000$24,680,000
HondurasFisheries & Aquaculture$160,000$2,760,000
HondurasGovernment$130,000$330,000
HondurasTourism$80,000$770,000
CroatiaTourism$2,100,000$21,000,000
CroatiaFisheries & Aquaculture$110,000$1,780,000
CroatiaGovernment$640,000$2,820,000
HaitiTourism$30,000$290,000
HaitiFisheries & Aquaculture$0$40,000
HaitiGovernment$300,000$1,100,000
IndonesiaFisheries & Aquaculture$4,250,000$70,830,000
IndonesiaGovernment$196,530,000$813,230,000
IndonesiaTourism$1,720,000$17,170,000
IndiaTourism$7,420,000$74,210,000
IndiaFisheries & Aquaculture$4,370,000$72,860,000
IndiaGovernment$948,160,000$1,655,590,000
IranFisheries & Aquaculture$510,000$8,490,000
IranTourism$1,170,000$11,740,000
IranGovernment$360,000$710,000
IraqFisheries & Aquaculture$40,000$700,000
IraqTourism$330,000$3,310,000
IraqGovernment$20,000$50,000
ItalyFisheries & Aquaculture$540,000$8,920,000
ItalyTourism$22,920,000$229,190,000
ItalyGovernment$7,570,000$37,180,000
JamaicaFisheries & Aquaculture$10,000$170,000
JamaicaTourism$370,000$3,730,000
JamaicaGovernment$140,000$400,000
JapanFisheries & Aquaculture$2,070,000$34,390,000
JapanTourism$9,230,000$92,290,000
JapanGovernment$9,480,000$38,170,000
CambodiaTourism$270,000$2,740,000
CambodiaFisheries & Aquaculture$110,000$1,750,000
CambodiaGovernment$30,000$60,000
South KoreaFisheries & Aquaculture$1,020,000$17,030,000
South KoreaTourism$1,820,000$18,240,000
South KoreaGovernment$780,000$3,250,000
LebanonFisheries & Aquaculture$0$30,000
LebanonTourism$380,000$3,850,000
LebanonGovernment$120,000$470,000
LiberiaFisheries & Aquaculture$0$0
LiberiaTourism$0$0
LiberiaGovernment$10,000$40,000
LibyaFisheries & Aquaculture$10,000$110,000
LibyaTourism$110,000$1,140,000
LibyaGovernment$20,000$110,000
Sri LankaFisheries & Aquaculture$40,000$790,000
Sri LankaGovernment$4,890,000$22,400,000
Sri LankaTourism$240,000$2,370,000
MoroccoFisheries & Aquaculture$640,000$10,650,000
MoroccoGovernment$510,000$1,840,000
MoroccoTourism$770,000$7,660,000
MexicoTourism$2,790,000$27,910,000
MexicoFisheries & Aquaculture$330,000$5,430,000
MexicoGovernment$3,120,000$6,310,000
MyanmarFisheries & Aquaculture$1,330,000$22,180,000
MyanmarGovernment$5,330,000$16,490,000
MyanmarTourism$320,000$3,160,000
MontenegroTourism$120,000$1,210,000
MontenegroFisheries & Aquaculture$0$20,000
MontenegroGovernment$100,000$460,000
MozambiqueTourism$40,000$410,000
MozambiqueFisheries & Aquaculture$10,000$230,000
MozambiqueGovernment$40,000$180,000
MalaysiaTourism$1,850,000$18,530,000
MalaysiaFisheries & Aquaculture$590,000$9,850,000
MalaysiaGovernment$100,550,000$424,360,000
NigeriaFisheries & Aquaculture$500,000$8,430,000
NigeriaGovernment$14,500,000$31,450,000
NigeriaTourism$1,170,000$11,660,000
NicaraguaTourism$70,000$710,000
NicaraguaFisheries & Aquaculture$130,000$2,110,000
NicaraguaGovernment$10,000$30,000
NetherlandsTourism$2,380,000$23,840,000
NetherlandsFisheries & Aquaculture$2,440,000$40,750,000
NetherlandsGovernment$4,240,000$19,830,000
PanamaTourism$280,000$2,780,000
PanamaFisheries & Aquaculture$80,000$1,230,000
PanamaGovernment$300,000$1,190,000
PhilippinesFisheries & Aquaculture$1,950,000$32,600,000
PhilippinesTourism$6,020,000$60,160,000
PhilippinesGovernment$1,176,380,000$4,859,270,000
Papua New GuineaTourism$10,000$130,000
Papua New GuineaFisheries & Aquaculture$60,000$1,030,000
Papua New GuineaGovernment$20,000$90,000
North KoreaTourism$0$0
North KoreaFisheries & Aquaculture$60,000$1,060,000
North KoreaGovernment$0$0
PortugalTourism$2,940,000$29,390,000
PortugalFisheries & Aquaculture$370,000$6,180,000
PortugalGovernment$1,520,000$6,730,000
RussiaTourism$1,820,000$18,190,000
RussiaFisheries & Aquaculture$1,250,000$20,690,000
RussiaGovernment$1,520,000$6,100,000
SenegalTourism$20,000$190,000
SenegalFisheries & Aquaculture$30,000$580,000
SenegalGovernment$10,000$30,000
SingaporeTourism$2,760,000$27,610,000
SingaporeFisheries & Aquaculture$280,000$4,780,000
SingaporeGovernment$470,000$2,080,000
Sierra LeoneTourism$0$50,000
Sierra LeoneFisheries & Aquaculture$0$40,000
Sierra LeoneGovernment$30,000$130,000
El SalvadorTourism$60,000$640,000
El SalvadorFisheries & Aquaculture$30,000$490,000
El SalvadorGovernment$30,000$70,000
SurinameFisheries & Aquaculture$30,000$440,000
SurinameTourism$0$30,000
SurinameGovernment$40,000$140,000
TogoFisheries & Aquaculture$0$10,000
TogoGovernment$0$10,000
TogoTourism$20,000$170,000
ThailandFisheries & Aquaculture$3,770,000$62,850,000
ThailandGovernment$49,670,000$122,410,000
ThailandTourism$5,730,000$57,270,000
Timor-LesteFisheries & Aquaculture$0$0
Timor-LesteGovernment$10,000$30,000
Timor-LesteTourism$0$0
Trinidad and TobagoFisheries & Aquaculture$20,000$320,000
Trinidad and TobagoGovernment$1,480,000$4,450,000
Trinidad and TobagoTourism$250,000$2,470,000
TunisiaFisheries & Aquaculture$80,000$1,260,000
TunisiaGovernment$310,000$1,330,000
TunisiaTourism$260,000$2,640,000
TürkiyeFisheries & Aquaculture$690,000$11,440,000
TürkiyeGovernment$30,060,000$116,200,000
TürkiyeTourism$3,530,000$35,280,000
TaiwanTourism$0$0
TaiwanFisheries & Aquaculture$810,000$13,360,000
TaiwanGovernment$610,000$2,410,000
TanzaniaTourism$170,000$1,720,000
TanzaniaFisheries & Aquaculture$50,000$740,000
TanzaniaGovernment$180,000$670,000
UkraineFisheries & Aquaculture$20,000$220,000
UkraineTourism$120,000$1,200,000
UkraineGovernment$1,070,000$4,360,000
UruguayFisheries & Aquaculture$30,000$510,000
UruguayGovernment$100,000$320,000
UruguayTourism$170,000$1,740,000
U.S.Fisheries & Aquaculture$2,620,000$43,750,000
U.S.Tourism$35,280,000$352,800,000
U.S.Government$39,020,000$112,170,000
VenezuelaFisheries & Aquaculture$40,000$630,000
VenezuelaGovernment$1,290,000$4,580,000
VenezuelaTourism$150,000$1,520,000
VietnamFisheries & Aquaculture$8,000,000$133,340,000
VietnamGovernment$74,090,000$198,040,000
VietnamTourism$1,860,000$18,590,000
South AfricaTourism$530,000$5,270,000
South AfricaFisheries & Aquaculture$120,000$2,000,000
South AfricaGovernment$1,810,000$6,600,000

The direct costs of cleaning coastlines, waterways, marinas, and ports make up the lion’s share, between $5.6 and $15.0 billion in government expenditures. 

But clean-up costs aren’t the only impact. Polluted beaches and stranded debris also have an impact on tourism, estimated to be between $237.8 million and $2.4 billion.

And while the harm to marine ecosystems can’t be overstated, the cost to fisheries and aquaculture, and the communities that depend on them, is real. It adds up to between $114.4 million and $1.9 billion annually.

Streams of Plastic, Rivers of Pollution

But where does all this plastic come from? 

According to the most recent estimates, as many as 1,656 rivers contribute 80% of the plastic pollution that makes it into the ocean. This 2021 study updates earlier estimates that pinned much of the blame on only a handful of rivers.

RiverCountryShare of global plastic pollution emitted to ocean
PasigPhilippines6.43%
TullahanPhilippines1.33%
UlhasIndia1.33%
KlangMalaysia1.33%
MeycauayanPhilippines1.23%
PampangaPhilippines0.95%
LibmananPhilippines0.72%
GangesIndia0.63%
Rio Grande de MindanaoPhilippines0.54%
AgnoPhilippines0.47%
AgusanPhilippines0.47%
ParanaquePhilippines0.45%
IloiloPhilippines0.43%
Soai RapVietnam0.42%
Chao PhrayaThailand0.41%
Lagos HarbourNigeria0.41%
HugliIndia0.40%
HuangpuChina0.37%
Pazundaung CreekMyanmar0.37%
BharathappuzhaIndia0.36%
Ebrie Lagoon KomoeIvory Coast0.34%
SarawakMalaysia0.34%
Msimbazi RiverDar Es Salaam0.33%
ImusPhilippines0.32%
Chenzhen RiverChina0.30%
Wouri RiverCameroon0.29%
LangatMalaysia0.29%
CilliwungIndonesia0.29%
ZapotePhilippines0.28%
Malad CreekIndia0.28%
KelaniSri Lanka0.28%
Cagayan de OroPhilippines0.27%
Davao RiverPhilippines0.27%
KarnaphuliBangladesh0.27%
Rio PavunaBrazil0.27%
Panvel CreekIndia0.26%
Yangon RiverMyanmar0.26%
Malaking TubiqPhilippines0.26%
Zhujiang/CantonChina0.26%
Tambo, Pasay (storm drain)Philippines0.26%
KelantanMalaysia0.26%
Jalaur RiverPhilippines0.23%
Douala EstuaryCameroon0.23%
ChilyarIndia0.23%
Periyar RiverIndia0.23%
Cagayan RiverPhilippines0.23%
Sungai KuantanMalaysia0.22%
Mithi RiverIndia0.22%
Rio OzamaDominican Republic0.22%
HamulauonPhilippines0.22%

The top 10 rivers are all in Asia. And this makes sense when you think about it. Asia is home to most of the world’s population and to many developing countries with poor waste management systems. Many parts of Asia, especially in the Southeast, also have heavy precipitation, which is a contributing factor. Proximity to a city is also important, as is the distance to the coast. In fact, the top three emitting rivers go through major coastal cities Manila, Kuala Lumpur, and Mumbai.

As a result, not only is Asia the biggest source of plastic pollution, a staggering 81% according to study authors, but it also has the highest direct and indirect costs from plastic pollution, between $5.4 and $16.4 billion per year.

So What’s to be Done?

The OECD estimated that global plastic pollution could nearly triple to 1.0 billion metric tons by 2060. And while they estimate that the share of plastic that escapes waste management systems will fall from 22% (2019) to 17% (2060), that’s still a lot of plastic to deal with. 

Not surprisingly, the tide is turning against single-use plastics and many governments have already banned the worst offenders. Bangladesh was the first country to ban plastic bags in 2002, while the U.S. banned microbeads in personal care products in 2015, followed by the UK (2018), Canada (2018), and then China (2020-2022). 

At the international level, 170 countries recently agreed to have a first draft of a global plastics treaty ready by November 2023.

Momentum is Growing Against Plastic Cigarette Filters

Single-use plastic cigarette filters, which routinely top the Ocean Conservancy’s annual International Coastal Cleanup, are also coming under scrutiny. 

The EU’s Single-Use Plastic Directive stopped short of banning plastic filters outright, but it did mark them for reduction measures. Germany, on the other hand, will soon require plastic manufacturers to pay into a central clean-up fund. It is expected to bring in €450 million during the first year alone and impacts producers of drink containers, food wrappers, and yes, cigarette filters.

So, with the tide turning against cigarette filters, what’s next for the world’s number one plastic pollution problem?

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Learn more about Greenbutts, creator of a certified biodegradable, plant-based alternative to plastic cigarette filters.

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