A 2015 study named the five biggest contributors, which were Sri Lanka, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, and topping the charts at number 1 by a wide margin, China. Much of the plastic pollution from these countries stemmed from underdeveloped waste management systems.
In China, 76% of waste was mismanaged, meaning it was either just dropped as litter or disposed of in dumps or landfills that weren’t well contained and allowed the plastic to escape. The study concluded that all that mismanaged plastic ended up depositing between 1.3 and 3.5 million metric tons of debris in the ocean each year, almost a third of the estimated annual marine plastic scrap.
But don’t be so quick to pin all the blame on China. Starting in 1992 China started importing plastic waste from other countries, and it’s bought up a total of about 45% of the post-consumer plastic exported since then, adding about 10 to 13 percent to their domestic waste. Why? Because that plastic can be processed and turned into other goods. Well, some of it can anyway.