Plastic Pollution and Everyday Practices to Reduce It

In the last 6 decades, the mass production of plastic has increased substantially, and with that, we’re beginning to see its consequences.

Since the beginning of mass production, 8.3 billion metric tons of, primarily disposable, plastic has been produced and 6.3 billion metric tons of this has become plastic waste. Of this figure, only 5% has been properly recycled. and at least 10% ends up in the oceans. It doesn’t take a scientist to recognize that these are staggering numbers.

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Quick and Dirty Facts

  • Over 710 000 tons of plastic waste was dumped into the ocean this year (click here for running total)
  • It can take over 400 years for plastic to degrade, meaning most of what’s ever been produced still exists today. Only 12% of plastic produced has been incinerated.
  • If present trends continue, by 2050, there will be 12 billion metric tons of plastic in landfills, making the weight of plastic in the ocean exceed that of fish.
  • More than 50% of sea turtles have consumed plastic
  • Plastic comprises 90% of all trash floating the earth’s surface
  • The average U.S citizen consumes 167 water bottles each year
  • Approximately 500 billion plastic bags are in used worldwide. More than one million are used every minute.
  • Over the last decade, we have produced more plastic than during the entire last century
  • There are more microplastics in the ocean than stars in the milky way

Stomach Contents of Dead Albatross

Impacts

  • Scientists at Ghent University in Belgium discovered people who eat seafood ingest up to 11, 000 microscopic pieces of plastic yearly
  • A Plymouth University study reported plastic was found in 1/3 of UK caught fish
  • It upsets the food chain. For example, plastic pollution impacts small organisms, such as plankton, and when these become poisoned, it affects larger animals that depend on them for food.
  • It contributes to groundwater pollution – most of the pollution affecting the oceans comes from plastics, negatively impacting marine life (and those who eat marine life)
  • The burning of plastic leads to air pollution because of the poisonous chemicals released
  • It’s hazardous to animals (ingesting, getting caught in plastic can holders)

What Can YOU do?

Some easy and tangible ways to reduce your plastic consumption include:

  • using reusable shopping bags and water bottles
  • refusing single-serving packaging, excess packaging, and disposable plastics such as straws (try a reusable straw instead)
  • carrying reusable utensils and bring containers when you’re eating on the go
  • bringing your own mug to coffee chops, smoothie shops, restraurance etc
  • choosing products packaged in cardboard or paper over plastic (such as laundry detergent)
  • purchasing products such as rice, pasta and cereal in bulk and filling a reusable bag
  • using cloth diapers on infants
  • making your own cleaning products (water and vinegar solutions make great all-purpose and glass cleaners)
  • using a razor with replaceable blades rather than a disposable set
  • purchasing bread that comes in paper or no bags
  • returning containers for berries, cherry tomatoes etc to farmer’s markets to be reused
  • ditching the plastic produce bags in grocery stores
  • using bar soap over liquid soap
  • using shampoo bars over shampoo bottles
  • using plastic free tooth paste/powder
  • using plastic free feminine hygiene products (ex cloth pads, diva cup, thinx)
  • making your own condiments
  • purchasing items that are plastic second-hand
  • repairing rather than replacing items
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