Countries That Produce the Most Waste

November 14, 2018 by John Harrington

Source: Andrew Burton / Getty Images
Municipal solid waste management (MSW) is the most important service a city or state or nation can provide. MSW, or trash, is waste generated from companies, buildings, institutions, small businesses, houses, and yards. Waste is disposed of by placing it in landfills, incinerating, composting, or recycling it. Management of municipal waste is the largest budget item for cities, and it employs many workers. The World Bank estimates that the planet generates about 2 billion tons of trash every year.

Many of the nations that produce the most waste are island countries, whose economies are dependent on tourism. Places such as the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Cayman Islands are playgrounds for sunseekers, and the trash these visitors leave behind is pushing the limits of the host countries’ ability to dispose of it. Each day, these countries generate several pounds of waste per person, not including the waste that gets recycled or composted.

Some of these nations and territories recycle a large portion of their waste, but still generate among the most net waste per capita. The Faroe Islands, located in the North Atlantic between Iceland and Scotland, recycle over two-thirds of the area’s total waste output. Some nations do not have the same level of responsible waste management. Monaco recycles or composts just 5.4% of its trash, for example, and several nations and territories on this list do even less.

Many of the nations on this list are among the most affluent in the world, and include Monaco and Bermuda, both of whom have gross national income per capita above $100,000. Higher-income countries like Singapore, which generates 2.9 pounds of daily waste per capita and is 23rd on our list, tend to have a higher rate of recycled or composted waste than lower-income nations, according to World Bank data.

Using World Bank data, 24/7 Wall St. determined the countries and territories producing the most waste per capita per day after subtracting the total amount recycled or composted. All data included in this report came from the World Bank’s What a Waste Global Database. This database contains the most recent available data, which varies from country to country.

Click here to see the countries that produce the most waste.

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36. Qatar
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 2.5 pounds
> Population: 2,109,568
> Total annual waste production: 970,960 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: 30,030 tons (3.0%)

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

35. Nauru
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 2.6 pounds
> Population: 13,049
> Total annual waste production: 6,192 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: N/A

Source: EXTREME-PHOTOGRAPHER / Getty Images

34. Maldives
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 2.6 pounds
> Population: 409,163
> Total annual waste production: 196,701 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: 14,805 tons (7.0%)

Source: Thinkstock

33. Israel
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 2.6 pounds
> Population: 8,380,100
> Total annual waste production: 4,050,000 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: 1,350,000 tons (25.0%)

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32. Macao SAR, China
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 2.7 pounds
> Population: 612,167
> Total annual waste production: 302,354 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: 75,588 tons (20.0%)

Source: Thinkstock

31. St. Martin (French)
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 2.7 pounds
> Population: 30,959
> Total annual waste production: 15,480 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: N/A

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30. Brunei Darussalam
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 2.7 pounds
> Population: 423,196
> Total annual waste production: 211,928 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: 4,325 tons (2.0%)

Source: chica_fuerte / Getty Images

29. Gibraltar
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 2.8 pounds
> Population: 33,623
> Total annual waste production: 16,954 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: N/A

Source: efesenko / Getty Images

28. Montenegro
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 2.8 pounds
> Population: 622,159
> Total annual waste production: 314,006 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: 17,994 tons (5.4%)

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27. Hong Kong SAR, China
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 2.8 pounds
> Population: 7,305,700
> Total annual waste production: 3,748,679 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: 1,931,137 tons (34.0%)

Source: Gertjan R. / Wikimedia Commons

26. Andorra
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 2.9 pounds
> Population: 82,431
> Total annual waste production: 43,000 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: N/A

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25. United States
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 2.9 pounds
> Population: 318,563,456
> Total annual waste production: 168,732,000 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: 89,268,000 tons (34.6%)

Source: Thinkstock

24. Canada
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 2.9 pounds
> Population: 35,544,564
> Total annual waste production: 18,910,116 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: 6,192,918 tons (24.7%)

Source: Thinkstock

23. Singapore
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 2.9 pounds
> Population: 5,607,283
> Total annual waste production: 3,004,677 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: 4,699,623 tons (61.0%)

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22. Seychelles
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 3.0 pounds
> Population: 88,303
> Total annual waste production: 48,000 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: N/A

Source: Thinkstock

21. Trinidad and Tobago
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 3.0 pounds
> Population: 1,328,100
> Total annual waste production: 722,051 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: 5,823 tons (0.8%)

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20. Barbados
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 3.1 pounds
> Population: 280,601
> Total annual waste production: 159,082 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: 15,733 tons (9.0%)

Source: Thinkstock

19. Malta
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 3.2 pounds
> Population: 431,874
> Total annual waste production: 251,004 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: 17,996 tons (6.7%)

Source: Thinkstock

18. Kuwait
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 3.2 pounds
> Population: 2,998,083
> Total annual waste production: 1,750,000 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: N/A

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Source: boblinsdell / Flickr

17. Channel Islands
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 3.3 pounds
> Population: 164,541
> Total annual waste production: 99,594 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: 79,339 tons (44.3%)

Source: mikolajn / Getty Images

16. St. Kitts and Nevis
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 3.3 pounds
> Population: 54,288
> Total annual waste production: 32,892 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: N/A

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Source: Thinkstock

15. Bahrain
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 3.4 pounds
> Population: 1,425,171
> Total annual waste production: 875,788 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: 76,155 tons (8.0%)

Source: Thinkstock

14. Iceland
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 3.6 pounds
> Population: 330,815
> Total annual waste production: 216,983 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: 308,018 tons (58.7%)

Source: caseyhelbling / Wikimedia Commons

13. The Bahamas
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 3.7 pounds
> Population: 386,838
> Total annual waste production: 264,000 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: N/A

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Source: stefaniedesign / iStock

12. New Zealand
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 4.0 pounds
> Population: 4,692,700
> Total annual waste production: 3,405,000 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: N/A

Source: Luke Ma from Taipei, Taiwan ROC / Wikimedia Commons

11. Guam
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 4.0 pounds
> Population: 159,973
> Total annual waste production: 116,242 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: 25,258 tons (17.9%)

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Source: Thinkstock

10. Aruba
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 4.2 pounds
> Population: 103,187
> Total annual waste production: 78,437 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: 9,695 tons (11.0%)

Source: Grahampurse / Wikimedia Commons

9. Cayman Islands
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 4.4 pounds
> Population: 59,172
> Total annual waste production: 47,400 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: 12,600 tons (21.0%)

Source: davidstanleytravel / Flickr

8. Greenland
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 4.8 pounds
> Population: 56,905
> Total annual waste production: 50,000 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: N/A

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Source: CalinStan / Getty Images

7. Moldova
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 5.2 pounds
> Population: 3,554,108
> Total annual waste production: 3,371,280 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: 609,920 tons (15.3%)

Source: nonimatge / Getty Images

6. Mongolia
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 5.2 pounds
> Population: 3,027,398
> Total annual waste production: 2,900,000 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: N/A

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Source: Thinkstock

5. Bermuda
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 5.5 pounds
> Population: 64,798
> Total annual waste production: 65,354 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: 16,646 tons (20.3%)

Source: bvi4092 / Flickr

4. British Virgin Islands
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 5.6 pounds
> Population: 20,645
> Total annual waste production: 21,099 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: N/A

Source: dennisvdw / Getty Images

3. Puerto Rico
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 5.7 pounds
> Population: 3,473,181
> Total annual waste production: 3,587,020 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: 583,933 tons (14.0%)

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Source: Thinkstock

2. Monaco
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 6.3 pounds
> Population: 37,783
> Total annual waste production: 43,516 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: 2,484 tons (5.4%)

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

1. U.S. Virgin Islands
> Daily net waste generated per capita: 7.6 pounds
> Population: 105,784
> Total annual waste production: 146,500 tons
> Annual waste recycled or composted: N/A