Does the US dump garbage in the ocean?

Recent studies show that the US dumps the highest number of water bottles in the ocean. In fact, studies show that the US contributes as much as 242 million tons of trash in the ocean every year.

However, it is undeniable that ocean litter is a mix of garbage from all around the globe. The water bottle could be from Los Angeles, the food container from Manila, the plastic bags from Shanghai. The amount of trash floating in the ocean is just too much for it to bear.

The marine ecosystem is now severely polluted by plastic garbage, which comes from different countries, most of which are from Asia. 

While it’s great that humans are trying to clean up the patch, most of the efforts should instead go toward stopping the out-of-control flow of plastic garbage into the oceans. 

Does NYC still dump garbage in the ocean?

Generating over 14 million tons of rubbish a year, NYC spends approximately $2.3 billion disposing of it – sometimes 7,000 miles away in China.

As the largest city in the world’s most wasteful country, it comes as no surprise that New York generates more garbage than any other city in the world.

Because it is also America’s densest city, its narrow, traffic-jammed streets make collecting all that garbage even more challenging. Its location does not help much, too, being a giant urban expanse where spaces are limited to contain their trash.

How does NYC manage their waste?

NYC relies on a complex waste management ecosystem encompassing two city agencies and three modes of transport (trucks, trains, and barges). Including 1,668 city collection trucks, an additional 248 private waste hauling companies, and a diverse network of temporary and permanent facilities extending halfway around the world, they try to make it work.

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Their population density adds to the burden of the problem. Although it may sound unfair to put all the blame to New York City, one could not help but look at it as the center of the problem. 

A brief history of American waste management

Waste management problems are nothing new for New York, or the US in general. 

Way back 1657, when New York was still called New Amsterdam, inhabitants used to throw their rubbish, filth, ashes, and even dead animals into the public streets to the great inconvenience of the community.

Up until the mid-1900s, America’s primary method for disposing of its waste was simply to dump it into the ocean. There was even a time when 80 percent of New York’s garbage ended up out at sea.

Common questions about US dumping garbage in the ocean

When did the US stop dumping garbage in the ocean?

According to some studies, the US stopped dumping garbage in the ocean since 1992. This was in response to what was called the Ocean Dumping Ban Act. However, recent researches show that a huge chunk of water bottles found in the ocean is from the US. To this day, a lot of debate goes on whether or not the country follows the said act.

Do cruise ships dump garbage in the ocean?

It is a general belief that cruise ships simply dump their garbage to the ocean. This is because they are constantly on the move, making waste management and disposal an added challenge to their day to day operations. However, there have not been enough studies to prove this belief.

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Why do we dump plastic in the ocean?

It is not really a matter of directly dumping plastic and all these other wastes in the ocean. There are a few things causing plastic pollution in our oceans. For one, the majority of our plastic wastes end up in landfills. Because they are so lightweight, the wind can blow them to drainages. From there, these plastics go to the ocean.

Since the viral video of a turtle with a straw on its mouth made rounds on social media, the call to completely put an end to plastic production and use has been louder. 

There have also been streams of campaigns and projects with the objective of helping solve the problem of climate change. These campaigns mainly asked people to look for greener alternatives to plastic, as plastic wastes are seen to be among the biggest reasons why it blew up. Unfortunately, it is not that easy. 

While it would probably take some time before we see improvements on plastic waste management and disposal, it would be great if countries all over the world take initiative for the greater good. The US, for example, has such a huge influence over other nations, which is why they should be taking action for the whole world to emulate. Unless one country seriously takes a step to stop using plastic, results and improvements are still too far-fetched.


We have to rethink how we are doing it all. It is important to consider our footprint! Susan has been writing on this blog since 2020, but it has been on her mind for a lot longer!

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