Which country uses the most plastic?

Since 1950, 8 billion tons of plastic have been produced. More than half of it moved to landfills, while only about 9 percent was recycled.

Much of the plastic that is not recycled or sent to landfills normally end up straight to the oceans. Studies show that around 4.8 to 12.7 million metric tons of trash enter the ocean in a year.

The common American threw out about 12 ounces of plastic every day in 2010. That is a lot and that makes up around 26 normal-sized plastic water bottles.

If that appears like a lot, high-income nations tend to make more plastic waste per person. It is only natural for high-income countries to have well-controlled waste streams, we expect them to have lower levels of plastic polluting external environments. However, plastic waste nevertheless invades rivers and oceans, especially from populations by the water. 

For one, the US creates mountainous with 275,000 tons of plastic litter every year with a high risk of polluting neighboring rivers and the ocean.

The biggest plastic user

Despite being the top producer of plastic waste in the world, the daily plastic waste per person per day in China is one of the lowest, which is only at 12 kilograms a day. That is just about 4 ounces of plastic a day per person.

However, there is no denying that China produces too much plastic in a year, which causes them to accumulate over 231,000 tons of plastic litter each year. Such a humongous amount of trash comes with a high risk of polluting surrounding rivers and the ocean. Though significantly less than the US, it is still more than all other countries.

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What is microplastic pollution?

Plastic pollution affecting countries has always been an issue. More recently, people have noticed just how much plastic is tossed in the oceans leading to both plastic and microplastic contamination.

Microplastics are hard, small pieces of plastics measuring less than 5 millimeters long. They are produced from larger pieces of plastics that have crumbled down over the years. 

These are harmful because marine animals like fish and turtles ingest microplastics as food. The very alike fish is consumed by people and the cycle continues.

Top 3 countries with the highest plastic pollution

The top 3 countries with the highest plastic pollution rates include China, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

China and Indonesia remain to be the top causes of the clogging in global sea lanes. The Philippines appears in a close third for top plastic pollution throughout the world. Most of it can be witnessed on beaches and in their water supply.

Because a high majority of mass-produced products are manufactured in China, it comes as no surprise how it creates the highest amount of plastic waste. Most of these plastics end up in the oceans around China. 

However, microplastics have seen their way to China’s lakes and rivers. Because microplastics have microbes attached to them, these alter the chemical structure of plastics creating toxins. These toxins cause marine life to become sick. This changes the drinking water for the community and wildlife.

Like China, plastic waste has not only changed the oceans but also the rivers of Indonesia. Four of the country’s rivers are incorporated in the 20 most polluted rivers in the world. 

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Indonesia relies massively on plastic to produce consumer goods because of its affordability. Everything from single-use tools to tables and chairs are made of plastic. Plastic pollution has started more apparent to the community. Plastic materials are now hindering riverways and have also begun blocking sources of food and water to their people. Plastic, in the many landfills of Indonesia, releases toxins into the air and groundwater. 

The Philippines appears third in terms of plastic pollution. Single-use plastic sachets and lack of government involvement are to blame in their case. Before sachets were popular, people used to bring their own containers, filling them with whatever they needed. However, things went downhill when sachet packaging brought both comfort and affordability to the masses.

Common questions about which country uses the most plastic

Who are the biggest plastic polluters?

Research shows that Coca-Cola is the world’s biggest plastic polluter. No surprise there, no thanks to its popular products which include bottled carbonated drinks, water, and juices. Runners up are Nestle and Pepsico.

Who is the largest producer of plastic?

Being the world’s biggest plastic user, China also tops the world’s plastic producers. The country had produced nearly 60 million tons of plastic materials. It is closely followed by the US, producing 38 million tons, and Germany which produced 14.5 million tons.

What is the number one polluter in the world?

Being one of the largest countries in the world, the United States is also considered to be the world’s number one polluter. They are among the world’s largest emitters of dangerous gases, which is projected to be measuring up to 43 billion metric tons by the year 2050.

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Although many Southeast Asian countries make it to the list of the world’s greatest contributors to plastic pollution, there is no denying that Western nations are also part of the problem. Because the problem of plastic waste is of global importance, there has to be a global solution for an improvement to happen. This is where we should stop pointing fingers and start acting as one for the greater good and future generations.


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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