Most Common Plastic Found On Beaches, In Oceans & On Land

Different sectors of society generate plastic waste at different rates.

In addition to that, different plastic waste items are found littered on beaches, in oceans and on land.

In this guide, we identify those sectors that produce waste at the highest rate, and specific plastic waste items.

It is a complimentary guide to this one that outlines the general waste found in oceans and on beaches.


Summary – Most Common Plastic Waste Generated, & Found On Beaches, In Oceans & On Land

When it comes to plastic litter on beaches and land – Plastic Caps/Lids, Plastic Beverage Bottles, Plastic Bags, Plastic Food Wrappers/Containers, Plastic Cups, Plates, Forks, Knives and Spoons, and Plastic Straws & Stirrers are prevalent.

In the ocean, plastic in some fishing gear, as well as plastic from industrial activity and from land based sources (plastic waste is carried by rivers into the ocean) is significant.

It’s also worth noting other items that contain plastic like cigarette butts (the major source of litter pollution on land) or disposable diapers are found in large quantities (diapers more in developing countries).

Plastic, foam and glass are some of the most common tiny trash materials found on coastal cleanups


In terms of the most common plastic waste generated in society, packaging waste is by far the most common plastic waste generated.


Most Common Plastic Waste Found On Beaches, In Oceans & On Land

According to, the most commonly picked up items on coastal clean ups are:

Globally (in order of most to least):

Cigarette Butts

Food Wrappers (from candy, chips etc.)

Straws, Stirrers

Forks, knives, spoons

Plastic beverage bottles

Plastic bottle caps

Plastic grocery bags

Other plastic bags

Plastic lids

Plastic cups, plates


US (in order or most to least):

Cigarette Butts

Food Wrappers (from candy, chips etc.)

Plastic bottle caps

Plastic beverage bottles

Straws, Stirrers

Beverage cans

Plastic grocery bags

Glass beverage bottles

Other plastic/foam packaging

Metal bottle caps


Read more about the numbers in their 2019 report at


Read more in these guides:

Most Common Types Of Waste Found In Oceans & On Beaches

Most Commonly Littered Items In Society In Oceans, On Beaches, In Rivers, & On Land


Most common plastic waste and plastic packaging items might include:

Plastic shopping bags

Plastic food wrappers 

Plastic take out waste

Plastic cutlery (forks, knives, plates, spoons etc,)

Plastic cups

Plastic straws and stirrers

Plastic bottles

Plastic lids and tops

Plastic is also found in products like cigarette butts and disposable diapers


Treehugger also has a list of 6 of the most common sources of plastic waste pollution at


Most Common Waste Materials Found On Coast Cleanups

In terms of tiny trash:

Plastic (over double the number of tiny foam trash)

Foam (almost 10x the amount of glass)




Most Common Plastic Waste Generated

Global plastic waste generation in 2015, measured in tonnes per year, was:

Packaging – 141 million tonnes

Other sectors – 42 million tonnes

Textiles – 38 million tonnes

Consumer & Institutional Products – 37 million tonnes

Transportation – 17 million tonnes

Electrical/Electronic – 13 million tonnes

Building & Construction – 13 million tonnes

Industrial Machinery – 1 million tonnes



A large reason plastic packaging waste is more prevalent is that a lot of it is single use, low lifespan plastic.

This is in comparison to say Construction for example that might use a lot of plastic, but that plastic might be used for 30 years – like for example PVC pipes in homes and other applications.









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