You’ve probably seen a photo of plastic pollution in the ocean, heard about it in the news, or discussed it with a friend. Yet, this problem is much more complicated than you think. So, let’s learn more about it!
In this article, we’ve put together a few facts that most people don’t know about plastic pollution. Keep reading and find out how many of them you didn’t know either! Also, you will find some tricks to fight plastic pollution!
10 Shocking Facts About Plastic Pollution
Plastic pollution has become one of the biggest problems for the environment. To solve this problem, it’s important to understand how it affects the environment, wildlife, municipal solid waste management, and your health:
- Plastic pollution is everywhere
When somebody talks about plastic pollution, the ocean is probably the first place that comes to your mind. But it turns out that plastic pollution is not limited to the oceans.
You can find plastics in the streets, rivers, beaches, mountains, and even in the Arctic ice. Moreover, microplastics are literally raining down from the sky! What’s worse, some researchers found microplastics in the placentas of unborn babies!
- About 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean every year
The oceans are home to many marine species. That said, plastic pollution is affecting these beautiful ecosystems. Nowadays, there are more than 5 trillion pieces of plastics already in the oceans! And to make it even worse, more than 8 million tonnes of plastic find their way into the oceans every year.
- Around 80% of ocean plastics come from land-based sources
For most people, it’s hard to imagine that their plastic waste could end up in the ocean. But the truth is that around 80% of the ocean litter comes from land-based sources. How is this possible?
In places with poor waste management, plastic waste could be blown away by the wind or carried to rivers via storm drains.
- There will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050
Even though plastic pollution is already a big problem, it’s expected to get worse in the years to come!
If we don’t reduce plastic waste and solve this problem now, there will be more plastics than fish in the oceans by 2050. Instead of catching fish, we will end up removing plastics from the oceans. Could you imagine a future like that?
- Plastics never disappear but rather break down into smaller pieces
When plastics end up in natural environments, they don’t decompose in the same way as organic materials do.
While fruits will biodegrade in a matter of weeks, some plastics could take more than 400 years to decompose! And in the worst scenario, plastics will only break down into smaller pieces called microplastics, which means they will never fully disappear!
- Plastic pollution kills around one million marine animals each year
Plastics kill more than 1 million marine animals, such as mammals, fish, turtles, and seabirds each year! Many of them mistake plastics for their prey and eat them. This will reduce their urge to eat and they will eventually die of starvation!
Other animals could get tangled up in plastics, like abandoned fishing gears or six-pack rings. As a result, they will have a very painful death.
- You’re probably eating around 70,000 microplastics each year
Plastics are not only affecting the environment but also making their way into your dinner plate. That’s right, you’re eating tiny pieces of plastics every day as well. Some studies suggest that the average person eats around 70,000 microplastics each year!
There isn’t enough information about how these plastics could affect your health, but as you’re probably guessing, sounds like bad news.
- Only 9% of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled
If you think that recycling is the solution to plastic pollution, think twice. Unfortunately, recycling is far from being a solution to plastic waste. So far, only 9% of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled!
What about the rest? Well, 12% of it has been incinerated and the other 79% has accumulated in landfills, dumps, or the environment.
- More than 40% of all plastics are used just once
Although plastic is a durable and useful material, most plastic items are designed to be used once and then tossed. This results in lots of plastic waste!
Take plastic bags, for example. Every year, around 5 trillion plastic bags are bought worldwide. On average, most people will use these bags for less than 15 minutes. What happens afterwards? They will throw them away!
- Single-use plastics are the most common litter found on beaches
Plastic pollution sounds like a problem that’s far away from you. That said, if you go to a beach near you, chances are you will find a lot of plastic litter.
The most common plastic items found on beach clean-ups include: cigarette butts, plastic bottles, food wrappers, grocery bags, bottle caps, takeaway containers, and straws.
How Can You Fight Plastic Pollution?
Plastic is a useful material that we’ve turned into a big problem for the environment. If we don’t solve plastic pollution now, we will have to call the Earth “plastic planet” instead of Blue Planet! You can do your bit to help the environment with these simple actions:
- Say no to plastic straws. Don’t leave your reusable straw at home!
- Try volunteering at local beach clean-up events once in a while.
- Reuse plastics as much as you can instead of discarding them.
- Look for plastic-free alternatives to cut down on plastic waste.
- Skip takeaway and cook instead to avoid plastic containers.
- Use reusable shopping bags instead of plastic bags.
- Prefer products that come in plastic-free packaging.
- Replace plastic bottles with reusable bottles.
- Support bans on single-use plastics.
- Encourage others to go plastic-free!
While it’s difficult to imagine a life without plastics, you should start by avoiding single-use plastics as they generate lots of waste. Fortunately, there are many reusable products that can replace them and help you go plastic-free!