Most Common Types Of Waste Found In Oceans & On Beaches

Most Common Types Of Waste Found In Oceans & On Beaches

There’s a significant amount of waste and rubbish found both in oceans and on beachfronts each year.

We’ve put this guide together of the most common types of rubbish found, so that we can be aware as we are creating waste where it might end up.


Summary – What Types Of Waste Should We Look To Reduce So They Don’t End Up In Oceans & On Beaches

Plastic (bags, bottles, caps/lids etc.) and cigarettes by far seems to be the most common rubbish found on beaches.

Fishing gear, industrial rubbish, micro-plastic, and land based rubbish (similar to that found on beaches) is common in oceans.


Most Common Types Of Waste Found In Oceans

  • Fishing gear, industrial material, washed off plastic and land origin garbage are commonly found in oceans
  • The most common plastic littering objects (in the US) in order are (refer to the full article for quantities) food wrappers/containers, plastic bottle caps, beverage bottles, bags, straws and stirrers, plastic lids, utensils, cigarette butts, foam take out containers, plastic take out containers, cigar tips, foam coups and plates, tobacco packaging, balloons, other plastic bottles, cigarette lighters, personal care products, 6 pack holders, diapers



  • Much of the plastic in the ocean today comes directly from sources on land, often reaching the ocean as runoff that moves improperly discarded trash from land to river and finally, the ocean
  • over a quarter of the plastic waste that goes into the ocean every year likely comes from the runoff of just ten rivers. These ten rivers, eight of which are in Asia and two in Africa, are located adjacent to large cities where hundreds of millions of people live
  • to minimise ocean rubbish, we can reduce our waste, remove existing waste from the ocean and beaches, re-use and recycle, as well as continue to research and develop alternatives to plastic and the most common waste types, and better waste management and processing systems


Read more about plastic types, and rubbish found in oceans (and where it comes from) at 


Most Common Types Of Waste Found On Beaches

In 2018, Ocean Conservancy reported (from a beach pick up volunteer event):

  • For the first time ever of the 33-year history, the top-10 most commonly found items on beaches around the world were all made of plastic
  • Cigarette butts, food wrappers, plastic beverage bottles, plastic bottle caps, plastic grocery bags, other plastic bags, straws and stirrers, plastic takeout containers, plastic lids, and foam take out containers were the top types of rubbish found



About 80% of the debris in the garbage patch comes from land-based activities in North America and Asia.

A majority of the most commonly found pieces of garbage floating in our oceans include items that we use on a daily basis and think nothing of it. These include:

  1. Plastic Bottles
  2. Plastic Bags
  3. Cigarettes
  4. Food Wrappers
  5. Plastic Utensils
  6. Straws
  7. Beverage Cans
  8. Paper Bags (and Styrofoam cups)



During the 2011 International Coastal Cleanup, volunteers kept tally of the trash they found the most on beaches (they also kept number/quantity records too). The top ten were (in order of quantity found):

  • Cigarettes
  • Caps/Lids
  • Plastic Beverage Bottles
  • Plastic Bags
  • Food Wrappers/Containers
  • Cups, Plates, Forks, Knives, Spoons
  • Glass Beverage Bottles
  • Straws, Stirrers
  • Beverage Cans
  • Paper Bags



  • Single use disposable plastic is the most common waste found on beaches
  • The three R’s can help reduce plastic waste …  Reduce the amount of disposable plastic you use. That’s anything you use once and throw away. Just use less. Reuse disposable plastics when possible. A plastic bottle makes a great coin piggy bank or watering can.  The possibilities are endless.  Recycle anything that can be recycled, so it stays out of landfills, where trash can blow away.



A recent 4Ocean volunteer clean up of Siesta Key Beach, Florida, returned the following numbers of waste found:

  • 144 Straws
  • 187 Pieces of cutlery
  • 234 Plastic & Styrofoam Cups
  • 355 Plastic Bags
  • 463 Plastic Bottles
  • 1,346 Caps
  • 5,877 Cigarette Butts!

*Numbers taken from 4Ocean’s Facebook Page on 27th February, 2019


More Information On Different Types Of Marine Debris & Where It Comes From

Read more at 












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