PLASTIC 
 POLLUTION 
 FACTS 

Plastic is an incredible example of human invention and innovation. It’s durable, flexible, lightweight, cheap to produce, and did we mention durable; seriously, some of it never biodegrades, ever. The fact that it is so durable is what makes it such a threat to the environment and all the animals in it (including humans).

 

According to a study done in 2018 the average person eats over 70,000 pieces of microplastic a year. That’s roughly 100 pieces of microplastic per meal (not exactly the seasoning you were expecting). Chemicals in plastic can be absorbed by the body as well—most people age six or older test positive for BPA (a plastic chemical). [1] Most adult bodies can process the amount of BPA they are exposed to daily with no significant health effects, however children and fetuses are extremely susceptible to negative effects from BPA exposure. We do not yet know how this will affect our youth as they grow up. [2]

 

Since the invention of plastic in the 1950s approximately 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced – the weight of roughly a billion elephants [3] Of that plastic, only 9% has been recycled, 12% of that has been burned and the remaining 79% ends up in landfills and the environment. [4]

 IN MORE DETAIL 

Just The Facts

  • The amount of plastic produced from 2000 - 2010 exceeds the amount produced during the entire last century. [5]
     

  • Virtually every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists in some shape or form (with the exception of the 12% that has been incinerated – equally bad for the environment). [6]
     

    • More than 40 per cent of plastic is used just once, then tossed. [7]
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    • Nearly 2 million single-use plastic bags are distributed worldwide every minute. These bags can take thousands of years to degrade in landfills. [8]
       

    • A plastic bag, for instance, is used on average for 15 minutes, yet could take 100 – 300 years to degrade. [9]
       

    • 1 million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute, and this number is set to increase by another 20% by 2021. Less than half of the bottles purchased in 2016 were recycled — with just 7% of those collected turned into new bottles, and the rest ending up in landfills or the ocean. [10]
       

    • A plastic bottle can last for 450 years in the marine environment, slowly fragmenting into smaller and smaller pieces which eventually end up microscopic but never truly go away. This means that every piece of plastic that has ever been produced is still with us, in some form. [11]
       
  • Plastic is the most common type of marine litter worldwide.
     

    • There are five trillion pieces of plastic in our oceans [12]
       

    • Up to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic enters the oceans every year. [13]
       

    • At least 8 million pieces of plastic are entering the oceans every single day. [14]
       

    • The equivalent of a truckload of plastic enters the oceans every minute. [15]
       

    • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is located in the North Pacific Gyre off the coast of California and is the largest ocean garbage site in the world. This floating mass of plastic is twice the size of France, with plastic pieces outnumbering sea life six to one. [16]
       

  • In some parts of the world, using plastic is already illegal.
     

    • Kenya introduced one of the world’s toughest laws against plastic bags in 2017. Now, Kenyans who are caught producing, selling, or even using plastic bags will risk imprisonment of up to four years or fines of $40,000 (£31,000). [17]
       

      Other countries that have banned, partially banned, or taxed single-use plastic bags include China, France, Rwanda, and Italy. [18]

       

      You can find about other countries and cities that have brought in extraordinary plastic bans here.

 

 

 HOW CAN I REDUCE THE IMPACT OF 
 PLASTIC CONSUMPTION RIGHT NOW? 

  • If it is available always opt for the non-plastic option. This will most commonly be glass or metal.
     

  • Cut single use plastic items out or your daily routine
     

    • Bring reusable cloth bags shopping rather than accepting plastic ones at the store.   
       

    • Buy a metal or glass reusable water bottle rather than buying bottled water.
       

    • Opt for the can of Coke over the plastic bottle.
       

    • Refuse plastic eating utensils and carry your own reusable set. (bamboo is a great option as it is so lightweight)
       

    • Rather than using plastic bags for lunch or snacks; opt for reusable or bee’s wax snack bags. You can also reuse any resealable bags or tubs that were part of the packaging from a previous item you bought. (Ex. resealable bags of trail mix or tubs of hummus)
       

    • If you just can’t enjoy your drink without a straw buy a metal one. Just a quick rinse with water after use and its ready for the next beverage. Bonus: its washing machine safe.  
       

    • Many coffee shops and take out restaurants are happy to use takeaway containers you bring in yourself. If it’s a place you frequent, ask the staff if they have size requirements and maybe they will start encouraging other patrons to follow your lead. (it saves them money in the end and they can promote being eco-friendly)
       

  • This is a no brainer but, RECYCLE!
     

    • If you must use plastic, try to choose #1 (PETE) or #2 (HDPE), the most commonly recycled plastics.
       

    • Avoid plastic bags and polystyrene foam as both typically have very low recycling rates.
       

  • Go digital! You can get your music and movies more cheaply by just buying the digital copy rather than the physical CD or DVD and you never need to worry about them getting scratched!
     

  • Volunteer at a community/beach clean-up day in your area.
     

  • Spread the word. Talk to your family and friends about why it is important to reduce plastic in our lives and the nasty impacts of plastic pollution.

 HOW CAN I SOLVE 
 THE PROBLEM FOR THE FUTURE? 

  • Invest in projects that directly impact the problem (like Recycle Rebuild!)
     

  • Contact your representatives and let them know you support government bans and restrictions for unnecessary and damaging plastic products or activities. 
     

    • Mandated Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations and strategies to make producers and companies responsible for the damage plastic causes to our environment, make them accountable for the entire lifecycle and true costs of their products.
       

    • Plastic bag and straw bans
       

  • Advocate for DRS’s (Deposit Return Scheme) in your community
     

    • In a nut shell this means you are buying the contents, but renting the container. Think of it like the old timey milkman who delivered full and reclaimed empty milk bottles each week. It’s the same idea with plastic, glass and metal drinks containers. You buy your drink and it’s 10-20 cents more expensive than it was before, but when you take the bottle back to the retailer and pop it into the ‘reverse vending machine’ you’ll get your deposit back.
       

  • Support corporations who promote environmentally friendly practices. Such as investment in reuse models and new ways to deliver products using less or no packaging. Also, corporate phase-out of production and use of single-use plastic products and throwaway product models.

 WOW, THAT WAS 
 A LOT OF FACTS! 

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