10 Facts About Plastic Pollution You Need to Know

It can easily be argued that plastic is one of modern man’s most miraculous inventions helping to improve the lives of billions of people. However, single-use plastic is starting to choking our environment and if we do not make significant changes to our consumption habits & product designs the our planet will face serious issues.

Ten astonishing facts about plastic pollution to put the problem into perspective

1. Since the 1950s, around 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced worldwide.

According to a report from the Guardian, an estimated 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced since the 1950s — that’s equivalent to the weight of more than 800,000 Eiffel Towers. And only 9% of it has been recycled - ever.

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

In 2017 Kenya introduced one of the world’s toughest laws against plastic bags. 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).

Other countries that have banned, partially banned, or taxed single-use plastic bags include China, France, Rwanda, the U.K. and Italy.  

3. 73% of beach litter worldwide is plastic.

According to National Geographic, 73% of all beach litter is plastic. The litter includes filters from cigarette butts, bottles, bottle caps, food wrappers, grocery bags, and polystyrene containers.

4. A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute.

in 2017, a report by the Guardian found 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 report found that more than 480 billion plastic drinking bottles were purchased in 2016 across the world — up from 300 billion a decade ago. Less than half of the bottles in 2016 were recycled - with just 7% of those collected and turned into new bottles while the rest ended up in landfills or the ocean.

5. Worldwide, about 2 million plastic bags are used every minute.

This might seem like an unbelievable number, but according to Ecowatch, between 500 billion and 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide annually. New Yorkers alone account for 23 billion plastic bags every year, according to the New York City Department of Environmental Conservation. The good news is a plastic bag ban was passed earlier this year.

Bans on plastic bags have already proved to be extremely effective in the countries that have them. In the UK, for example, the introduction of a 5p plastic bag charge introduced in 2015 has brought about an 83% reduction in plastic bag use.

6. 90% of plastic polluting our oceans is carried by just 10 rivers.

According to World Economic Forum , just 10 rivers across Asia and Africa carry 90% of the plastic that ends up in the oceans. The study states that eight of these rivers are in Asia: the Yangtze, Indus, Yellow, Hai He, Ganges, Pearl, Amur, and Mekong. Two of the rivers can be found in Africa: the Nile and the Niger. The WEF added that the two things all the rivers named have in common is a high population living in the area, as well as a poor waste management system.

7. Plastic is killing more than 1.1 million seabirds and animals every year.

A study conducted by the University of Queensland in Australia, based on data collected since the late 1980s, found that Green Sea Turtles now ingest twice the plastic they did 25 years ago. The United Nations also found that ingestion of plastic kills an estimated 1 million marine birds and 100,000 marine animals each year. Additionally, more than 90% of all birds and fish are believed to have plastic particles in their stomach. It’s because plastic breaks up into tiny pieces in the sea, which are then consumed by fish and other sea animals.

Research from Plymouth University has found that close to 700 species of marine life are facing extinction due to the increase of plastic pollution.

8. The average person eats 70,000 microplastics each year.

That works out to about 100 pieces of microplastics over the course of just one meal, according to a study published in Environmental Pollution.

9.  The average time that a plastic bag is used for is … 12 minutes.

That’s right — they’re used for an average of 12 minutes and then take up to a thousand years to decompose.

10. Over the past 50 years, world plastic production has doubled.

While increasing numbers of organizations and countries are banning plastic use and production, the world’s leading plastic manufacturers are planning to increase production by almost a third over the next five years, according to the World Economic Forum

In 1974, global plastic consumption per year was 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) per capita. Today, this has increased to 43 kilograms (about 95 pounds) — and this number is still set to increase.

If plastic consumption increases at its current rate, according to National Geographic, by 2050 there will be 12 billion metric tons of plastic in landfills.