Plastic is bad news for the environment. Policy makers are constantly repeating this message. Plastic is a valuable resource that can be used in many ways. But plastic pollution is an unsustainable, unnecessary waste of this resource.
- Packaging accounts for more than 40% of total plastic consumption.
- Around 500 billion plastic bag are used globally each year. Every minute, approximately one million bags is used.
- Plastic bags can last for an average of 15 minutes.
- The last ten-years have seen us produce more plastic than the whole of the previous century.
- According to the Container Recycling Institute (CRI), there were 315 bottles per person sold in the U.S.A in 2014, which was 100.7 billion plastic bottles.
- 57% of those units consisted of plastic water bottles. 57.3 billion bottles were sold in 2014. This is an increase over the 3.8 million plastic water bottles that were sold in 1996, when data was first available.
- To make bottled water, you need 6x as much water per bottle than in the container.
- Beverage containers make up 14% of litter. If you include caps and labels, this number is much higher.
Do you know how severe the problem of plastic pollution really is?
Some cities and countries around the world have implemented plastic bans. However, it is clear that more must be done to eliminate single-use plastics.
Certain governments and organisations are making an effort to reduce plastic waste and improve the environment. Some retailers have also committed to reducing the amount they use of plastic.
Iceland, a British supermarket chain and Ikea, have made plans to replace single-use plastics with more sustainable alternatives. Many retailers are targeting plastic straws as well as cutlery. In some instances, having a plastic bag can put you in jail.
Consumers must also understand the impacts of plastic consumption on the environment. These facts are not as well-known but important.
1. Only 9% is recycled out of all plastics produced
According to the Guardian, an estimated 8.3 trillion tons of plastic were produced between 1950s and 2005. That’s the equivalent of the weight of over 800,000 Eiffel Towers.
Despite all this and the fact plastic is still being produced every year, UNEP reports that only 9.9% of plastic is recycled and only 12.2% are incinerated. The rest of the plastic is either incinerated or has polluted nature.
This may seem like a huge number but Ecowatch reports that the world uses between 500 and 1 trillion plastic bags annually.
According to New York City Department of Environmental Conservation 23 billion plastic bags are used annually by New Yorkers, which is why plastic grocery bags have been banned in the city.
Countries that already have bans on plastic bags have seen them prove to be very successful. For example, in the UK, the introduction in 2015 of a 5p (7c), plastic bag tax has led to an 83% decrease on plastic bag use
According to a government April 2017 report, Britain still produces 1.3 million plastic bags per annum. However, this is a significant step forward.
3. Some countries have banned single-use plastics
2017 was a tough year for plastic bags in Kenya. Kenyans will now face jail time of up to 4 years and $40,000 fines if they are found producing, selling or using plastic bags.
China, France (partially banned), or Italy (taxed single use plastic bags) are other countries.
Find out about other countries or cities that have introduced extraordinary plastic bans.
4. Every minute of every hour, a truckload is of plastic that is dumped into oceans.
According to a World Economic Forum study, 32% percent of all plastic packaging goes to oceans every year. This is equivalent to pouring one truckload of plastic into an ocean every minute.
5. Plastic accounts for 73% worldwide beach litter.
National Geographic states that 73% all beach litter is plastic.
6. One million plastic containers are bought each minute
According to The Guardian, over 1 million plastic bottles were purchased every minute across the globe. This figure is expected to rise by 20% by 2021 if no action is taken.
The same report stated that there were more than 480bn plastic bottles purchased worldwide in 2016. This is an increase of 300 billion per decade.
Furthermore, less that half of the bottles bought in 2016 were recycled. Only 7% were used to make new bottles, while the rest ended in landfill sites and the ocean.
7. It is possible that there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050
In partnership with World Economic Forum and Ellen MacArthur foundation, a report has shown that plastic pollution can continue at such a rate that it could overwhelm fish stocks.
The report predicts that the oceans will hold at least 937,000,000 tons of plastic, and only 895,000,000 tonnes of fish by 2050.
8. Ten rivers transport up to 95% in plastic pollution oceans
The World Economic Forum research shows that only 10 rivers are responsible for the majority of plastic waste swept into the oceans from Asia and Africa.
Eight of these rivers are found in Asia, according to the study: the Yangtze and Indus, Yellows, Hai Hes Ganges, Pearls, Amurs, Ganges, Ganges, Ganges, Pearls, Amurs, and Mekong. Two of the rivers are also found in Africa, the Nile or the Niger.
However, the study does NOT account for all of the waste found in oceans and oceans. The only thing that was included is plastic waste that was transported to oceans via rivers around the world.
The WEF stated that two things all rivers have in common are a high number of people living in the area and poor waste management.
9. Plastic will become a major food source for 99% seabirds by 2050
According to the United Nations 1,000,000 marine birds are killed each year by plastic poisoning. Scientists predict that by 2050, 91% of seabird species around the globe will have been inhaled plastic.
More than 90% of birds and fish have plastic particles in their stomachs. It happens because plastic is broken down into tiny pieces in seawater, which are then eaten by other sea animals.
10. A person consumes approximately 70,000 microplastics every year.
This amounts to about 100 microplastics per meal, according to a study published by Environmental Pollution.
A group of UK-based researchers placed sticky petri dishes alongside dinner plates in three UK households. Within 20 minutes, the dishes had accumulated 14 microplastics on average.