7 Pictures to Put Plastics in Perspective

by Sybil Bullock

February 5, 2018

A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Well, here’s another way of telling the story of plastic pollution - because I am just speechless.

1. There are more pieces of plastic in our oceans than stars in the galaxy.

Imagine this beautiful starry night sky… as a giant plastic-filled ocean.

There are as many as 51 trillion microplastic particles in the sea, 500 times more than the number of stars in our galaxy.  In other words – a LOT of plastic is in the ocean, and the fish sure didn’t put it there. Humans can be such pesky neighbors.

2. The United States alone produces enough microbeads to cover more than 300 tennis courts every day.

Imagine 300 of these tennis courts, each full of tiny toxic plastic beads. Now do that every day for 365 days straight.

Microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic that have broken down to less than 1 mm across, but don’t let their size fool you. These microbeads are small and deadly, as they absorb nearby toxins around them and become tiny poison-filled pellets. Not great news for the marine life  who ingest them – or for us when we eat those fish. Yuck!

3. The world’s biggest soft drinks companies pump out 2 million tons of plastic bottles every year – the same weight as over 10,000 blue whales.

It’s easy to feel a bit… overwhalemed.

Yep, it’s a lot. And that doesn’t even include the #1 largest soft drinks company of them all, Coca Cola, which produces over 110 billion single-use plastic bottles every year all on its own. That’s a whale of a lot more unnecessary plastic.

4. A diaper will outlive the baby wearing it for more than five generations.

Environmentally-conscious baby ditches the diaper to save the ocean! That’s the spirit!

That’s right, even diapers are made out of plastic. And those are definitely meant to be used only once! So why are we making so many disposable products from a material that lasts forever? Every piece of plastic ever made is still on the planet in some form or another. As any parent out there will tell you – that’s way too many stinky diapers.

5. There’s enough plastic on the ocean’s surface to go to the moon and back – TWICE.

Hello there astronaut! Fine day for a lunar trash pickup, isn’t it?

To put it another way, it would take you about 9 years to walk across all that plastic floating on our beautiful blue planet. And that’s just the plastic on the surface of the oceans! Let’s not forget that 94% of the plastic that enters the ocean ends up on the seafloor. Gross.

6. The world’s plastic could bury Manhattan 2 miles deep.

Imagine the Big Apple as the Big Plastic Pile instead.

Since the 1950’s, the plastics industry has produced more than 9.1 billion tons of plastic – all of which still exists, since plastic doesn’t break down like other man made materials. If we piled it all up, you’d be looking at 8 Empire State Buildings of plastic.

7. A single plastic bag lasts 22 million times longer than the time it is used.

Less of this, please. Just… stop.

The average lifespan of a plastic bag is 12 minutes, yet every plastic bag we produce will continue to exist for roughly 500 years. When you throw a plastic bag away, it’s important to remember that there really is no such thing as “away.” Thankfully, many are taking action to curb their use of plastic bags – and you can, too! Click here to become part of the solution instead of the problem. 

… Have I mentioned how much plastic is in the ocean?


Sybil Bullock

By Sybil Bullock

Sybil Bullock is a digital organizer at Greenpeace USA. She works to educate, empower and engage supporters to take action against single-use plastics and ocean pollution.

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