5 Worrying Facts About Plastic

Whether it is sauce bottles or water bottles, plastic cutlery or coffee cup lids, single use plastic is ingrained into our daily lives like nothing else in the world. We can hardly get through a meal without encountering some form of single use plastic, and this is becoming an increasing problem not just to our health but to the planet’s health too. 

Through this blog, we are going to identify just 5 concerning plastic facts that are ruining Earth as we know it. 

What is Single Use Plastic?

In the simplest of terms, single use plastics are products that are made from petrochemicals and are created to be disposed of right after they’ve been used. Some of the most common single use plastics are drinks wrappers, food containers / packaging and plastic carrier bags. 

The world consumes hundreds of billions of single use plastic items every day, and this rate of consumption has been consistently increasing since the 1980’s.  

Fact 1: There will be 200 million metric tons by 2025

Each and every year more than 8 million metric tons of plastic enter our seas and oceans across the globe. While this is worrying enough, what is more concerning is the compacted level of this plastic that is out there.

There is an estimated 180 million metric tons of plastic in the ocean currently. It is estimated that by 2025 there will be more than 200 million metric tons of plastic in our oceans and seas. 

The impact of plastic on our oceans isn’t just contained to the ugly vision of empty water bottles floating by our shore line. The damage is being done to the marine life and wildlife that lives and thrives off our oceans and its contents. 

Fact 2: 20% of marine animals are plastic-poisoned

According to extensive testing and research, almost 1 in 5 marine species, be them fish, sea birds, sea turtles or other, have been found to have plastic in their digestive systems or ingested underneath skin level. This means that of the 6.5 million sea turtles that are in existence, 1.3 million of them are suffering from plastic poisoning that is highly likely to impact their ability to breathe, procreate, food and swim.

Looking at marine mammals more generally, it is estimated that over 150,000 marine mammals die each day due to plastic poisoning or plastic pollution in the ocean.

Plastic is becoming so common place in the ocean now, that in 2017 a Minke Whale that had washed up, dead, on a beach in France, was examined and was found to have over 800kg of plastic inside the body.  

Fact 3: 2 million every minute

Looking away from the seas and ocean for a moment and looking a little closer to our daily habits. In 2019, around 1 trillion single use plastic bags were bought, sold and used across the world for a brief moment before being disposed of into either landfill or the environment directly.

That is nearly 2 million single use plastic bags being used every single minute.

Of the huge consumption of plastic bags that we use every year, only 1% of these are recycled which leaves billions of single use plastic bags going to landfill.

Fact 4: 12 minutes in exchange for 500 years 

It takes more than 200 million barrels of oil a year to keep up with the global demand for single use plastic bags. Burning through hundreds of millions of barrels of fossil fuels to manufacture 1 trillion plastic bags may seem worth it, until you realise.

The average plastic bag is used for around 12 minutes before being disposed of.

Once disposed of, the average single use plastic bag will take 500 years to decompose into the earth. There is no doubt that within the next 100 years if the production and disposal of plastic bags doesn’t significantly reduce, the world will be overflown with landfill waste.

Fact 5: Asthma, Cancer, Damage and Disease

We associate smoking, drinking and drug taking with Asthma, Cancer, Damage and Disease; and all of that is true, but what about plastic.

The chemicals used in the production of plastic products include lead, cadmium, mercury and other toxins like BPA. When plastic isn’t disposed of properly it can have a second life within marine mammals, fish, plants and land animals. This is through consumption, ingestion and absorption by the animals and plants. 

When this happens, the human diet can easily become compromised. With approximately 1 in 20 commercially farmed/bred fish and land mammals having plastic within their systems, it is no surprise than when we eat our Sunday roast, we risk ingesting some of the core elements involved in plastic manufacture.

So, plastic, when not disposed of properly can compact and over years of consumption lead to asthma, pulmonary cancer, liver damage, nerve damage, brain damage or kidney disease.

We must be more environmentally responsible

The damage that single use plastic is doing to our environment, our health, and the animals that cohabit the world with us is unquestionable. There are two ways that we, as responsible human beings, must respond to this knowledge.

We must seek to reduce our consumption of single use plastic, and look for ways to reduce plastic consumption with paper, glass and other more environmentally friendly, and faster decomposing options. 

And should we need to buy products that are wrapped in plastic, we must make every effort to recycle rather than landfill our output waste. 

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