Widespread pollution has turned some of the most beautiful beaches in the world into garbage heaps. This has affected Camilo Beach in Hawaii, which is so littered with man-made debris that it has received the nickname “Plastic Beach”, and the remote uninhabited island of Henderson in the South Pacific is considered the dirtiest on Earth. Once considered a sandy paradise, the places now look like garbage dumps. Based on the research of various non-profit organizations and researchers, a list of the 13 dirtiest beaches in the world was compiled.
Camilo Beach, Hawaii
Camilo Beach, also known as “Plastic Beach”, is one of the dirtiest places on the planet. Set in the countryside on the Big Island of Hawaii, Camilo Beach is a wasteland of plastic trash. Tons of man-made garbage wash up on its shores, ranging from toothbrushes to water bottles. Some of the waste was brought here from places as far away as Japan and Russia. One of the reasons this beach is so polluted is because of its proximity to the Great Pacific Garbage Island, a high-pressure zone that traps ocean debris. It was discovered in 1997 by oceanographer and boat captain Charles J. Moore. Contrary to how many people imagine it, the island is not immediately visible to the naked eye, because plastic is ubiquitous at different levels of the ocean depths.
Guanabara Bay Beach, Brazil
The polluted Guanabara Bay off the coast of Rio received media attention before and during the 2016 Summer Olympics, when sailing and rowing athletes came face to face with debris. According to an Associated Press study, the bay’s water “contained dangerously high levels of viruses and bacteria from sewage.” Athletes who ingested just three teaspoons of contaminated water faced a 99% chance of infection.
El Gringo Beach, Dominican Republic
New York-based non-profit organization Pure Earth is dedicated to identifying and cleaning up polluted places around the world. Its experts called Baios de Haina one of the most polluted places on Earth. The city, nicknamed “Dominican Chernobyl” and its El Gringo beach, suffers from chemical, pharmaceutical and oil refining industries. The Inter Press news agency reports that these plants annually emit large amounts of toxic substances, including formaldehyde, lead, ammonium and sulfuric acid. In addition to releasing toxins into the air, local factories also dispose of waste by dumping it into the water.
Henderson Island could very well be a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but in fact, the remote, uninhabited coral atoll in the South Pacific is one of the most polluted in the world. The island has become famous in recent years thanks to Jennifer Lavers, a researcher at the University of Tasmania. Lavers visited the island in 2015 to study its plastic pollution. Within three months, her team uncovered millions of man-made plastic debris on Henderson’s beaches.
Juhu Beach, India
Like other beaches on the coast of Mumbai, Juhu Beach is experiencing a significant decline in water quality, which is polluted by raw sewage from neighboring slums and other inadequately treated waste. The water here contains fecal intestinal bacteria that can cause intestinal diseases, typhoid fever and hepatitis A.
Kuta Beach, Bali
Indonesia is the second largest marine polluter in the world after China, contributing 10% of the world’s marine pollution. That’s why it’s no surprise that one of Bali’s most popular tourist destinations, Kuta Beach, is often covered in litter, especially during the rainy season when a huge amount of waste is washed ashore.
It’s no secret that the beaches of Cambodia are polluted. In 2016, US News and World Report ranked Cambodia’s coastline as the dirtiest in the world, based on the amount of trash collected by International Coastal Cleanup volunteers. With an average of 1,072 litter samples per mile, Cambodia was ahead of Albania, where volunteers collected 877 litter samples per mile of coastline. Serendipity Beach is no exception. TripAdvisor reviewers agree that this beach is dirty. “The beach itself could be very beautiful, but instead it is completely littered with rubbish,” writes one user. However, the rapid growth of debris is a symptom of a larger problem. With no water filtration system, people in Sihanouk rely on bottled water to survive — 4 million Cambodians have no access to safe water.
Poche Beach, California
In its annual survey of over 450 California beaches, the non-profit organization Heal the Bay named Poche Beach’s ocean front the most polluted stretch of sand in California this year. Last year, heavy winter rain caused an influx of waste containing fertilizers, metals and automotive fluids, and other pollutants that flowed down into the ocean.
Cheung Sha beach
Over the past few years, Hong Kong’s beaches have been devastated by debris and oil spills. While a massive influx of garbage from mainland China is systematically destroying the coast, the August 2017 palm oil spill left more than 90 tons of waste frozen on the sand. Based on TripAdvisor reviews, Cheung Sha Beach is the longest in Hong Kong and one of the dirtiest. Not surprisingly, Asia is also home to most of the dirtiest rivers in the world.
Hann Bay, Senegal
Once known for its miles of pristine white sand beaches, today Hann Bay is one of the most polluted waterways in Senegal. Since Hann Bay is located near the industrial port of Dakar, sewage from food and chemical companies, slaughterhouses and other factories regularly flows into the bay.
States Beach, England
Named one of the most dangerous beaches in the world, States Beach consistently falls short of European Union cleanliness standards. As of 2016, it is no longer considered a bathing area, which means extremely high levels of pollution. As a popular surf spot, this beach is subject to sewage pollution during periods of heavy rain.
Parley Beach, Canada
An aging sewer system is a likely culprit in pollution at Parley Beach in the Canadian state of New Brunswick. Last summer, levels of fecal bacteria were so high that New Brunswick issued no-swimming information for eight days of the season.
Forshore Beach, Sydney
Located between the Sydney airport and the port, Forshore Beach has been repeatedly recognized as the dirtiest beach in New South Wales. The beach is very sensitive to faecal contamination, when the amount of microbes in the water makes it unswimmable. In 2014, Forshore was briefly closed to the public when the water mysteriously turned orange. However, the iron-rich, brightly colored plume has been recognized as non-toxic by the New South Wales Environmental Authorities.
In continuation, read also about the most polluted places on Earth, which are dedicated to a separate selection on LifeGlobe.