Which Countries Create the Most Ocean Trash?

This article, written by Robert Lee Hotz on February 12th 2015, details how recently a team of renowned environmental scientists have taken it upon themselves to research and observe which countries produce the most oceanic waste. They not only figure out the major contributors but also calculate the exact amount of waste for 192 different countries around the world. The Wall Street Journal collected this data primarily from a scientist by the name of Jenna Jambeck. Jambeck and her team went on several different expeditions around the world to see what kind of waste they different countries were producing and which was more hazardous to the aquatic environments. Jambeck’s research showed that Asian countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, and China produce almost 30% of the world’s total oceanic waste. While more developed countries like the United States, England, and Canada produce less than one percent each.

This particular article in the Journal is very accurate because Jambeck supplied the data. Her scientific paper, which provided all the exact calculations and observations, coincides very well with what Hotz took from it. He gives credit where credit is due but also adds his own insight to the situation that importantly brings up the problem of nurdles. Nurdles are the relatively unseen killer in the oceans. These completely broken down plastics are the remnants of something previously larger like a bag or a container. Environmental scientists around the world have begun to see animals washing up on shore (or sea birds) that have stomachs filled with plastic. Not big pieces but little ones that slowly fill up the stomach until the animal dies of suffocation. Kimberly Amaral from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution points out the standard thought that the ocean is so vast and deep that the idea of almost microscopic plastic balls being a problem could not be true. But Amaral takes into consideration that like the garbage on the surface, the currents also affect the nurdles.

The article appropriately describes research done by brilliant scientists like Jambeck who are trying to better understand what we can do to help ourselves but most importantly help the oceans that we love so much. Not only with the horrifyingly destructive nurdles, but all the waste that we so lacklusterly produce throughout our time on the very fragile earth.




Feb 15th 2015; New York, Robert Lee Hotz “Which Countries Create the Most Ocean Trash?” http://www.wsj.com/articles/which-countries-create-the-most-ocean-trash-1423767676

Feb 13th 2015; Jambeck, J.R., Andrady, A., Geyer, R., Narayan, R., Perryman, M., Siegler, T., Wilcox, C., Lavender Law, K. , (2015). Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean, Sciencehttp://jambeck.engr.uga.edu/plastic-input-into-the-ocean-release-day

Emily Buenger; Duke


3 Responses to Which Countries Create the Most Ocean Trash?

  1. I was really surprised that the research showed that Asian countries like Indonesia, Thailand, and China produce almost 30% of the world’s total oceanic waste while more developed countries like the United States, England, and Canada produce less than one percent each. I assumed that the United States would produce a higher percentage of oceanic waste probably due to evidence that suggests that the United States is not environmentally conscientious. It uses about a quarter of the world’s fossil fuel resources, burning up nearly 25% of the coal, 26% of the oil, and 27% of the world’s natural gas, so it made sense to me that it would contribute to the ocean’s pollution just as dramatically. This blog post introduced me to the concept of nurdles, I had never heard of this term before. Because of the devastating effect these completely broken down plastics have on sea animals, I was made aware of how big of an issue they are. It would be interesting to be informed of the measures we can take to decrease the amount of oceanic waste produced.

  2. Although I am not surprised that countries such as China, Indonesia, and Thailand produce roughly 30% of the world’s oceanic waste, I am very surprised and mildly proud that the United States contributes less than 1% of all oceanic waste. The ocean being an incredible source of food and resources for society needs to be respected the way someone’s own property is. Unfortunately we can see the tragedy of the commons being displayed in the sense people turn their heads because it is so vast and not particularly their responsibility. With fisheries becoming depleted and pollution such as nuclear waste leaking into the ocean who’s to know the long term impacts this may have.

  3. Given the economic presence these Asian countries have such as Indonesia, Thailand, and China in our global markets, it makes sense that they produce roughly 30% of the world’s oceanic waste. I was very shocked to see that the United States only produces less than one percent. Knowing we are one of the leading consumers of the world’s fossil fuel resources as well as natural gas I would feel that they are not as environmentally conscientious as depicted. Our oceans supply us with significant resources, means of transportation, and influence our everyday life in many more ways than we can think. If we continue to soil our waters we will continue to see implications such as marine life deaths by nurdles and potentially see more trash wash up on our shores. Due to how large our oceans are and having large residence times we must be more strict on controlling what goes in them!

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