Most Common Plastic Waste Generated, & Found On Beaches, In Oceans & On Land

Most Common Plastic Waste (& General Waste) Generated, & Found On Beaches, In Oceans & On Land

Different sectors of society generate plastic waste at different rates.

In addition to that, different plastic waste items are found littered on beaches, in oceans and on land.

In this guide, we identify those sectors, and specific plastic waste items.

 

Summary – Most Common Plastic Waste Generated, & Found On Beaches, In Oceans & On Land

Packaging waste is by far the most common plastic waste generated in society.

When it comes to plastic litter on beaches and land – Plastic Caps/Lids, Plastic Beverage Bottles, Plastic Bags, Plastic Food Wrappers/Containers, Plastic Cups, Plates, Forks, Knives and Spoons, and Plastic Straws & Stirrers are prevalent.

In the ocean, plastic in some fishing gear, as well as plastic from industrial activity and from land based sources (plastic waste is carried by rivers into the ocean) is significant.

It’s also worth noting other items that contain plastic like cigarette butts (the major source of litter pollution on land) or disposable diapers are found in large quantities (diapers more in developing countries).

 

Most Common Plastic Waste Generated

Global plastic waste generation in 2015, measured in tonnes per year, was:

  • Packaging – 141 million tonnes
  • Other sectors – 42 million tonnes
  • Textiles – 38 million tonnes
  • Consumer & Institutional Products – 37 million tonnes
  • Transportation – 17 million tonnes
  • Electrical/Electronic – 13 million tonnes
  • Building & Construction – 13 million tonnes
  • Industrial Machinery – 1 million tonnes

– ourworldindata.org

 

A large reason plastic packaging waste is more prevalent is that a lot of it is single use, low lifespan plastic. This is in comparison to say Construction for example that might use a lot of plastic, but that plastic might be used for 30 years – like for example PVC pipes in homes and other applications.

 

Most Common Plastic Waste Found On Beaches, In Oceans & On Land

According to Oceanconservancy.org, the most commonly picked up items on coastal clean ups are:

Globally (in order of most to least):

  • Cigarette Butts
  • Food Wrappers (from candy, chips etc.)
  • Straws, Stirrers
  • Forks, knives, spoons
  • Plastic beverage bottles
  • Plastic bottle caps
  • Plastic grocery bags
  • Other plastic bags
  • Plastic lids
  • Plastic cups, plates

US (in order or most to least):

  • Cigarette Butts
  • Food Wrappers (from candy, chips etc.)
  • Plastic bottle caps
  • Plastic beverage bottles
  • Straws, Stirrers
  • Beverage cans
  • Plastic grocery bags
  • Glass beverage bottles
  • Other plastic/foam packaging
  • Metal bottle caps

Read more about the numbers in their 2019 report at https://oceanconservancy.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Final-2019-ICC-Report.pdf

 

Read more in these guides:

 

Most common plastic waste and plastic packaging items might include:

  • Plastic shopping bags
  • Plastic food wrappers 
  • Plastic take out waste
  • Plastic cutlery (forks, knives, plates, spoons etc,)
  • Plastic cups
  • Plastic straws and stirrers
  • Plastic bottles
  • Plastic lids and tops
  • Plastic is also found in products like cigarette butts and disposable diapers

 

Treehugger also has a list of 6 of the most common sources of plastic waste pollution at https://www.treehugger.com/slideshows/culture/6-most-common-sources-plastic-pollution/

 

Most Common Waste Materials Found On Coast Cleanups

In terms of tiny trash:

  • Plastic (over double the number of tiny foam trash)
  • Foam (almost 10x the amount of glass)
  • Glass

– oceanconservancy.org

 

Sources

1. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/most-common-types-of-waste-found-in-oceans-on-beaches/

2. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/what-is-plastic-used-for-in-society-sectors-that-use-the-most-plastic/

3. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/most-commonly-littered-items-in-society-land-rivers-beaches-oceans/

4. https://ourworldindata.org/plastic-pollution

5. https://www.treehugger.com/slideshows/culture/6-most-common-sources-plastic-pollution/

6. https://oceanconservancy.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Final-2019-ICC-Report.pdf

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