10 Plastic Pollution Facts to Show Why We Have To Do More

Plastic is bad for the planet. This is something we all hear about and that policy makers have repeated over and again. Plastic is a valuable resource, in many ways. However, plastic pollution can be an unsustainable waste of that resource.

  • Packaging represents just 40% of plastic used worldwide.
  • Worldwide, 500 billion plastic bags get used each year. Each minute, over a million bags are being used.
  • Plastic bags last an average of 15 minutes.
  • We have produced more plastic in the last ten year than we did during the entire century.
  • According to the Container Recycling Institute in the United States, there were 100.7 billion bottles of plastic beverages sold, or 315 bottles for every person.
  • 57% of the units were plastic water bottles, 57.3 billion being sold in 2014. This is an increase from the 3.8 billion plastic bottles sold in 1996 (the earliest year available data).
  • Producing bottled water takes 6 times more water than the water in the bottle.
  • 14% comes from drink containers. This number is even higher when caps and labels are included.

Do you realize how serious the problem of plastic pollution is?

Although some cities and countries have already implemented plastic bans, the demand for single-use plastics elimination is growing at an alarming rate, there are still many things that can be done.

Many governments and organizations are working together to reduce plastic consumption and protect the environment. Some retailers have taken environmental responsibility and committed to reducing their plastic use.

Iceland, a British supermarket chain, and Ikea, a furniture retailer, have set up plans to reduce single-use plastics in their stores and replace them by more sustainable options. Numerous retailers have targeted plastic straws, cutlery, and other disposables. In some cases, carrying a plastic bag could land you in prison.

As consumers, it is our responsibility to be aware of the effects that plastics have on the environment. You need to be aware of these less-known facts about plastic.

1. Only 9% percent of plastics are recyclable

According to the Guardian, 8.3 Billion Tons of Plastic have been Produced Since 1950s. This is equivalent to more 800,000 Eiffel Towers.

Despite the fact that plastic production is increasing each year, UNEP reports only 9% of plastic can be recycled and only 12% is burned. Plastic leftovers pollute the environment and can be found at dumps and in landfills.

2. Every minute, around 2 million plastic bags worldwide are used

It might seem unbelievable, but Ecowatch says that this number is between 500 billion and 1 Trillion plastic bags worldwide each year.

According to the New York City Department of Environmental Conservation (23.3 billion plastic bags per year), New Yorkers are the only ones who use plastic bags. It’s why the city has banned plastic grocery bag usage.

In countries where plastic bags are banned, they have been proven extremely effective. The UK has seen an 83% drop in plastic bag usage since 2015, when a 5p plastic bag charge was implemented (7c).

According to a government report from April 2017, Britain still produces over 1.3 billion plastic bags per year. This is significant progress.

3. In some areas of the globe, single-use plastics may be illegal

In 2017, Kenya passed one of the toughest plastic bag laws in the world. Kenyans who produce, sell, or use plastic bags could face up to four year imprisonment (PS31,000).

China, France, Rwanda and Italy are some of the other countries that have either banned or partially banned single-use plastic bags.

Find out more about cities and countries with extraordinary plastic bans.

4. Every hour of every day, a truckload worth of plastic gets dumped into the ocean.

According to the World Economic Forum’s study, 32% all plastic packaging ends up in our oceans each year. That is equivalent to one garbage truck of plastic going into the ocean every minute.

5. Plastic is responsible for 73% beach litter around the world.

National Geographic estimates that 73% beach litter is made up of plastic.

6. Each minute, 1 million plastic bottles get purchased

The Guardian reported that 1,000,000 plastic bottles are being bought each minute around the globe. If we don’t take action, this number could rise another 20% by 2021.

This report also revealed that more than 480 Billion plastic bottles were sold worldwide in 2016 — a rise of 300 billion over ten years.

Furthermore, less than half of all bottles purchased in 2016 were recycled. Only 7 percent of these bottles were made into new bottles while the rest went to landfill sites or the sea.

7. In 2050, plastic could outnumber fish in the ocean.

The Ellen MacArthur foundation, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, found that plastic pollution will continue to grow at a faster rate than fish.

According to the report, by 2050, oceans will be home to at least 937 millions tons of plastics and 895,000,000 tons of fish.

8. 10 rivers can carry up to 95% plastic polluting the oceans

Research by the World Economic Forum has shown that only 10 rivers from Asia and Africa are responsible for between 88-95% and 95% of all plastic waste that is washed into the oceans by 1,350 rivers.

Eight of these rivers were identified in the study as being located in Asia. They are: Yellow, Indus Yellow Hai He Ganges Ganges Ganges Pearl Amur, Amur, Amur, Ganges and Ganges. Two of these rivers are found in Africa: Nile, Niger and Indus.

The study doesn’t account for all types of waste in the oceans or seas. Only plastic waste from rivers around the globe is included.

According to the WEF the rivers all have two common features: a large population and poor waste management.

9. In 2050, plastic will be consumed by 99% of seabirds

According to the United Nations plastic consumption kills around 1 million marine birds annually and 100,000 marine animals every year. Scientists think that if this plastic pollution rate continues, then 99% of all seabird species in the world will be ingesting plastics by 2050.

Furthermore, plastic particles are found in more than 90% of all birds or fish. This is because plastic fragments in the sea break down into tiny pieces that can be eaten by fish or other sea animals.

10. Each year, the average person consumes 70,000 pieces of microplastics

According to Environmental Pollution, this amounts to around 100 pieces of microplastic per meal.

The sticky surface petri dishes were placed next to the dinner plates of three UK homes by a team of researchers. In just 20 minutes, 14 microplastics had been formed on the dishes.

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