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Find beaches and other coastal areas fouled by plastic on this map

How to Use the Map

  • Click on the ">>" icon on the upper left to see your viewing choices.
  • Zoom in and out using the "+" or "-" or your mouse wheel or trackpad.
  • Change the map background by clicking on the square below the Zoom tools.
  • Make the map larger by clicking on the "view larger map" text in the lower left corner. The map will open in a new tab.
  • Find a location by using the search box in the upper right corner.
  • Locate a beach fouled with plastic by clicking on one of the icons. You will see a popup with an image, a summary of the problem, and links to additional resources. At the top right of the popup, there is a rectangle and an "x" that allow you to expand or close the popup.
    • Shark Attack Video.jpgThe icons with the target icon are verified locations.
    • Red Dot.jpgThe icons with red dot have been submitted, but not verified.
  • The major sources of plastic are the twenty rivers (in red) and top five countries (in yellow) and the next five  (in lavender).
  • Click on the box next to one of the ocean current visualizations to see how plastic waste might have arrived at a coastline after traveling from the mouth of one of the ten rivers.
  • View the location of the ocean gyres where plastic collects in the middle of the ocean (the gold dots). Ocean Gyres with Plastic.jpg
  • See the area of the ocean where the top 20 rivers deposit plastic debris by clicking the box next to "Receiving Sea Top 20 Rivers" (light blue).
  • See the location of the major rivers of the earth and their tributaries (in blue). Zoom in for more detail.
  • Turn any layer on or off by clicking the box next to the text in the legend.

Is your beach fouled by plastic? If you know of a beach or other coastal location that regularly accumulates significant amounts of plastic you can add it to our map here.

Why This Map Is Important

Rivers Are Responsible for Most of the Plastic Waste in the World’s Ocean

Half of the Top 20 Rivers Are in the Philippines

More than 11 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean each year. Imagine more than 1 million trash trucks each carrying an average of 13 tons (11.8 metric tons) of trash lined up to dump their load in your coastal waters. Rivers are the conveyors for most of that plastic - at least 1 million metric tons of it, most from locations in Southeast and South Asia.

The map shows the 20 rivers carrying the largest volumes of plastic debris that has washed up on beaches throughout the globe. Users can select the Major Ocean Currents visualization to see the paths that plastic from these rivers (in red) might have taken to reach beaches and coastlines that collect large amounts of plastic waste (target icons and red dots).

Ten Countries Contribute 84% of All River-Borne Plastic to the Ocean

Half of the top 20 rivers are in the Philippines, and all but three are in Luzon, the count's largest and most populous island. The world's most polluting river1, the Pasig, bisects the capital of Manila before emptying into Laguna de Bay or Manila Bay, depending on the water level difference between them. (Rivers in red on the map)

The Philippines contribute 36% of river-borne plastic to the world's ocean and is one of ten countries, that together, contribute 84% of river-borne plastic to the ocean. The others are India (13%), Malaysia (7.3%), China (7.1%), Indonesia (5.6%), Myanmar (4%), Brazil (3.8.5), Vietnam (2.8%), Bangladesh (2.5%), and Thailand (2.3%). (Countries in pink on the map)

Another Philippine river, the Tullahan, is estimated to emit the second largest amount of plastic, along with India's Ulhas and Malaysia's Klang.

67% of All Macroplastic Accumulates Along Shorelines

Not all plastic that flows from these and other rivers reaches a distant coast or finds  its way to the ocean gyres. A 2019 study estimated that 67% of all buoyant macroplastic (bigger than .5 centimeters) accumulated along shorelines, about 110 million tons.*

That's far more than the estimated 31% that have accumulated in coastal waters and the roughly 1% found offshore or circulating in distant gyres.

The best immediate strategy for curbing ocean plastic from reaching the ocean is to stop the plastic at or before the mouths of polluting rivers, before it enters the marine environment. This interim step could be effective while the all-important efforts to improve waste management globally and the reduction in the use of plastic overall, particularly single-use plastic, continues.


The 20 Rivers Carrying the Largest Volumes of Plastic Waste to the Ocean

Source: Lourens J.J. Meijer et al., “ Global distribution of riverine plastic emissions.” Publication expected this year.

Rank

River Name

Country:

Receiving Sea

Continent

Plastic Load to the Ocean

Metric Tons/Year

1

Pasig

Country: Philippines

Manila Bay/South China Sea

Asia

63,000

2

Tullahan

Country: Philippines

Manila Bay, South China Sea

Asia

13,000

3

Ulhas

Country: India

Arabian Sea

Asia

13,000

4

Klang

Country: Malaysia

Strait of Malacca, Andaman Sea

Asia

13,000

5

Meycauayan

Country: Philippines

Manila Bay/South China Sea

Asia

12,000   

6

Pampanga

Country: Philippines

Manila Bay/South China Sea

Asia

9,300   

7

Libmanan

Country: Philippines

Philippine Sea

Asia

7,100   

8

Ganges

Country: India

Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean

Asia

6,200 

9

Rio Grande de Mindanao

Country: Philippines

Celebes Sea

Asia

5,300

10

Agno

Country: Philippines

Liingayen Gulf, South China Sea

Asia

4,600  

11

Agusan

Country: Philippines

Bohol Sea, Sulu Sea

Asia

4,600

12

Paranaque

Country: Philippines

Manila Bay/South China Sea

Asia

4,600

13

Iloilo

Country: Philippines

Panay Gulf, Sulu Sea

Asia

4,200

14

Soai Rap

Country: Vietnam

Song Sai Gon, South China Sea

Asia

4,100

15

Chao Praya

Country: Thailand

Gulf of Thailand, South China Sea

Asia

4,000

16

Lagos Harbor**

Country: NIgeria

Gulf of Guinea, Atlantic Ocean

Africa

4,000

17

Hugli 

Country: India

Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean

Asia

3,900

18

Huangpu

Country: China

East China Sea

Asia

3,600

19

Pazundaung Creek

Country: Myanmar

Andaman Sea, Bay of Bengal

Asia

3,600

20

Bharathappuzha

Country: India

Arabian Basin, Indian Ocean

Asia

3,500

*   Countries in bold indicate the location of the mouth of the river
** Lagos Harbor receives the discharge of the Ogun River and the Osun River

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