There is no disputing the critical environmental situation resulting from our excessive and unnecessary use of plastic. There is currently enough plastic in the ocean to circle the Earth over 400 times!
But, in case you need more convincing about why we need to #BreakFreeFromPlastic right now. Here are 30 more alarming FACTS about plastic that will make you rethink about your dependence on the deadly material.
#PlasticFreeSeptember: 30 Plastic FACTS to set the record straight
1) About 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced since the 1950s – the weight of roughly a billion elephants or 47 million blue whales.
2) Only about 9% of this plastic has been recycled, 12% has been burned and the remaining 79% has ended up in landfills or the environment.
3) Up to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic waste is estimated to have entered the global ocean in 2010.
4) The equivalent of a truckload of plastic enters the oceans every minute.
5) Over 90 percent of plastics produced have not been recycled.
6) By 2050, there will be 12 billion tonnes of plastic waste in natural environments.
7) It’s estimated that 94% of the plastic that enters the ocean ends up on the seafloor. Barely 1% of marine plastics are found floating at or near the ocean surface and 5% end up on beaches.
8) Studies estimate that there are anywhere between five and fifty trillion plastic particles in our oceans today.
9) The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that ocean plastics are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of sea creatures each year.
10) Crustaceans tested at the ocean’s deepest point, Mariana Trench, have ingested plastic.
11) Scientists have documented 700 marine species affected by ocean plastic.
12) Up to 9 of 10 seabirds, 1 in 3 sea turtles and more than half of whale and dolphin species have ingested plastic.
13) A new study found that when plastic is exposed to sunlight, it releases greenhouse gases (methane and ethylene). Not only does plastic contribute to climate change in its production, it does so during degradation as well.
14) People living along rivers and coastlines in China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam are the most impacted by plastic pollution.
15) Low income communities face more health impacts near plastic production sites, have greater exposure to toxins and waste, and bear the brunt of the impacts of improper plastic disposal and incineration.
16) Henderson Island in the South Pacific is the most plastic polluted of any island recorded to date.
17) Countries like Canada, the US and the UK export plastic waste to various countries in Asia and Africa, offloading their trash problem to other communities.
18) Drink companies alone produce over 500 billion single-use plastic bottles annually.
19) Nigeria’s Cross, Imo and Kwa Ibo rivers all feature on the Top 20 polluting rivers – the worst contributors of plastic waste to the ocean relative to their size.
20) Plastic producers are set to increase production by an additional 40% over the next decade.
21) Well-known coffee company Starbucks produces 4 billion coffee cups each year.
22) Tens of billions of bags of chips are sold each year by companies like Pepsi Co.
23) 500 million straws are produced each day in the United States alone, that’s over a straw a day for each American!
24) Bioplastics are not as green as they seem, approach with caution. Though companies often market them under the same umbrella, a product is not necessarily biodegradable and may require very specific conditions to break down. They also do not solve the litter or throwaway culture problem.
25) While clean-up efforts help reduce litter problems, they do not address the source of the problem and ignore the unseen plastic pollution – microplastics.
26) We can’t recycle our way out of this crisis. (See Fact #2)
27) Incineration, where waste is destroyed by burning, creates other pollution and does not address the overproduction problem.
28) Various cities, countries and regions around the world are banning or proposing bans on different single-use plastics – like Kenya and Morocco’s bag ban, Seattle’s (US) straw ban, and the City of Vancouver’s (Canada) proposed coffee cup and styrofoam container ban.
29) More than 30 countries have either regional or countrywide bans on plastic bags, and dozens more have levied fees or taxes on disposable bags.
30) UK retailer Iceland committed to go plastic free for all of its own brand products and some South Africa retailers have committed to do the same in the near future.
Sources: about.iceland.co.uk; aljazeera.com; Canadian International Merchandise Trade Database; cbc.ca; Eunomia.co.uk; Gov.uk; Iswa.org; Marine Pollution Bulletin; Nature.com; no-burn.org; NPS, PMMI; plos.org; Recyclinginternational.com, seattletimes.com; sciencemag.org; squarespace.com; Ted.com; The Guardian; unesco.org; weforum.org; wikipedia