Plastic Pollution: Facts and Prevention
Plastic pollution cannot be ignored. Plastic is literally everywhere and the amount of plastic we encounter daily never stops. But where does all this plastic go?
Some of it is recycled overseas but quite a bit ends up in landfills and more than you can imagine ends up as plastic pollution which eventually makes its way to our waterways.
10 Facts about Plastic Pollution
1. A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute.
Studies show that 1 million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute, and this number is set to increase by another 20% by 2021 if we don’t act.
The same studies show more than 480 billion plastic drinking bottles were purchased in 2016 across the world. Less than half of the bottles purchased in 2016 were recycled, with just 7% of those turned into new bottles and, the rest ending up in the landfill sites or the ocean.
Americans alone throw away 35 billion plastic water bottles every year (source: Brita)
2. Two million plastic bags are used every minute, worldwide.
According to Ecowatch, between 500 billion and 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide annually.
New Yorkers alone use 23 billion plastic bags every year, which is why the city is getting a ban on grocery bags.
3. It takes 500 - 1,000 years for plastic to degrade.
Every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists in some shape or form. With the exception of the small amount that has been incinerated.
4. Since the 1950s, around 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced worldwide.
According to studies, an estimated 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced since the 1950s.
Only 9% of it has been recycled.
5. Billions of pounds of plastic can be found in the oceans making up about 40% of the world’s ocean surfaces.
80% of pollution enters the ocean from land. It is estimated that there would be more plastics than marine animals in the oceans by 2050 if nothing has been done for plastic pollution.
6. One million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans.
44% of all seabird species, 22% of cetaceans, all sea turtle species and a growing list of fish species have been documented with plastic in or around their bodies.
7. Plastic chemicals can be absorbed by the body – 93% of Americans age six or older test positive for BPA.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a plastic chemical produced in large quantities for use in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins.
Some of these compounds found in plastic have been found to alter hormones or have other potential human health effects.
8. 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. Kenyans who are caught producing, selling or even using plastic bags will risk imprisonment of up to four years or fines of $40,000.
Other countries that have banned or taxed single-use plastic bags include China, France, Rwanda, and Italy.
9. Seventy-three (73%) of beach litter worldwide is plastic.
According to National Geographic, 73% of all beach litter is plastic. This includes filters from cigarette butts, bottles, bottle caps, food wrappers, grocery bags and more.
10. The average person eats 70,000 microplastics each year.
Environmental Pollution studies show that, that works out to about 100 bits of microplastic over the course of one meal.
According to an analysis in the American Chemical Society Journal Environmental Science & Technology, Americans may ingest as much 121,000 microplastic particles per year through eating, drinking and breathing.
10 Ways to Prevent Plastic Pollution
- Choose to reuse when it comes to shopping bags and bottled water. Cloth bags and reusable bottles are available locally at inexpensive prices.
- Go online - No need for plastic CD’s, DVD’s etc.
- Refuse or cut back on single-serving packaging, excess packaging, straws and “disposable” plastics.
- Volunteer at a beach clean-up! Or pick up plastic you see at the beach.
- Wean yourself off disposable plastics.
- Cook more.
- Purchase items second-hand.
- Buy in bulk.
- Spread the word. Talk to your family and friends about nasty impacts of plastic pollution and why it’s important to reduce plastic.
Remember: If we are kind to the earth, the earth will be kind to us.