Water/Wastewater

  • Which Countries Are the Worst for Ocean Pollution?

Which Countries Are the Worst for Ocean Pollution?

Dec 12 2019

China and Indonesia are the countries most responsible for contributing to oceanic pollution, according to the most recent data. The statistics date from 2010 and were compiled by Statista. They show that Asia – and southeast Asia in particular – is the biggest polluter of our waterways by a considerable distance.

The pollution comes in two principal forms – chemical spills and plastic waste. Both pose serious risks to the flora and fauna which live in the world’s seas and oceans, upsetting their natural habitats and causing damage to their bodies. Not only does this play havoc with the complex but fragile ecosystems found beneath the waves, it also can endanger human health when compromised fish and seafood reach farther up the food chain.

The biggest polluters

According to the 2010 figures, China are the primary culprit when it comes to plastic pollution in our waterways. That year, 8.8 million metric tonnes of plastic were disposed of improperly by the Asian superpower, with as much as 3.53 million metric tonnes of that refuse ending up in the ocean. The second biggest polluter was Indonesia, which mismanaged 3.2 million tonnes of plastic waste and allowed 1.29 million metric tonnes to infiltrate the oceans.

The top five polluters were rounded out by the Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka, demonstrating that southeast Asia has a sizable task ahead of it to address the problem of improper plastic waste disposal in the region. Statista only measured and compared data from a select number of nations, but for context, the United States allowed a comparatively meagre 0.3 million metric tonnes to escape into the seas, rivers and other waterways.

Types of contamination

Plastic is a useful metric of a country’s oceanic footprint and can pose serious problems for marine life. If fish and mammals do not become entangled in the waste, they can easily mistake it for food and ingest it. This causes serious (and sometimes fatal) damage to their inner organs. This problem is exacerbated when plastic breaks down (but does not actually biodegrade) into highly dangerous microplastics, which are then fed upon by smaller and smaller organisms, thus compromising the entirety of the food chain – all the way up to human life.

Another serious kind of pollution which is not measured by the Statista data is chemical contamination. This can occur through oil spills or freight tanker accidents, but most commonly comes when rainwater and agricultural runoff carries pollutants such as fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides, as well as petrol and diesel, into the water. This can enhance the growth of microorganisms such as cyanobacteria, which can cause green algal blooms and threaten the survival of other marine species by using up oxygen and blocking out sunlight. As such, all kinds of oceanic pollution must be combated and scientists are continually seeking innovative solutions to achieve exactly that.


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