Take a look around where you are right now. There’s a good chance that there are several forms of plastic being used. There’s even likely plastic in your computer or mobile device that you’re using at this moment. Plastic is being consumed everywhere today and used for virtually everything.
Plastics today make up almost 13% of the municipal solid waste stream.
The most common place where plastics are used in the home come from packaging and containers. Think shampoo bottles, soft drink containers, and lids on glass bottles. Trash bags are made from plastic, diapers have plastic in them, and let’s not forget about the plastic shopping bags that come from stores. How much of this is being recycled from an industry perspective? Just 9%. That’s means 91% of the plastic you see around you right now will one day hit a landfill or be discarded in the general environment.
- There were 32 million tons of plastic waste generated in 2012.
- The United States generated almost 14 million tons of plastics as containers and packaging in 2012.
- Non-durable goods, such as plastic plates or utensils, have 7 million tons of plastics dedicated to their production every year.
- Shoppers worldwide are using approximately 500 billion single-use plastic bags per year.
- It is believed that there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic floating in the ocean right now as uncollected waste.
- Every year, 17 million barrels of oil are used to produce the bottles that are used to hold water. That’s enough to make 340 million gallons of gasoline.
- Bottled water containers have one of the highest recycling rates in the plastic injury, but only 20% of bottles are every recycled.
- In the Los Angeles area alone, 10 metric tons of plastic fragments—like grocery bags, straws and soda bottles—are carried into the Pacific Ocean every day.
We use a lot of plastic and don’t even realize that we’re using it. Many times we just decide to throw the plastics that are being used away. With over 500 billion shopping bags being used every year and millions of tons of plastic waste generated, plastic is not the savior that we once thought it was. It is killing wildlife, creating massive amounts of waste in our oceans, and clogging up our waste systems. We’re literally drowning ourselves in plastic.
Is Bottled Water A Serious Problem?
- 50 billion plastic bottles of water are purchased every year. It costs 1,000x more than tap water, but 40% of bottled water is tap water that’s been repackaged.
- Toxins from the plastic bottle leach into the water and can cause reproductive problems and even cancer.
- 1,500 bottles of water are purchased every second in the United States.
Most tap water exceeds safety regulations. There are always some places where safe water can only come from the bottled variety, but we are consuming more plastic than water. In order to stop buying plastic water bottles, what do people do? Purchase plastic reusable water containers. It’s a step in the right direction from a recycling perspective, but maybe not a health perspective.
How Much Plastic Pollution Is There?
- We throw out enough plastic every year that it could encompass the planet 4 times.
- 93% of Americans test positive for the presence of BPA in their bodies.
- In Los Angeles, CA, it is estimated that 10 metric tons of plastic is washed into the Pacific Ocean every day.
- 185 pounds. That’s the average amount of plastic that every American throws away every year when it could be recycled.
- 10% of all the waste that is produced in the United States is plastic-based.
- Up to 1 million seabirds are killed every year because of their encounters with discarded plastic.
- In the fresh waters of Lake Erie, 85% of the plastic particles that were found in a water sample were microscopic.
- Almost every piece of plastic that has ever been created is still in existence somewhere.
It is believed to take a minimum of 500 years for plastic to naturally degrade. This means that every piece of plastic that is thrown away is going to become a long-term resident of our waste system – assuming that it doesn’t escape that system. There are places in the world where so much plastic congregates that the debris area is 2x the size of Texas. All sea turtle species have been found with plastic in, on, or around their bodies. The same is true for many other forms of sea life. Having plastic is fine, but we’ve got to be responsible about how we use it and then discard it