It goes to show, we're still in the dark about a lot of the gritty details...
These days, it’s in pretty much everything:
From the takeout containers your dinner was delivered in last night, to the squishy air pillows that come inside your packages in the mail... (who’s not a little guilty of a healthy online shopping habit!)
It’s even said to be found in your standard stick of gum, albeit disguised under the vague ingredient name “gum base”...
Of course, we’re talking about plastic.
Just one of mankind’s not-so-environmentally friendly contributions over the course of history. Plastic is everywhere, and even more is being generated with each passing moment.
With the overwhelming amount of single-use plastics cropping up in our day-to-day lives, it's hard to ignore the impact of this convenience-driven commodity.
But, while many of us reach for plastics out of habit or ease, this might be an automatic reflex. Many of us only have a basic understanding of the true repercussions that come with the amount of plastic we're using and disposing of, and how fast.
What we're not being told about are the real plastic pollution stats. We're not sure if it's our collective preference to turn a blind eye, or just lack of information available on the topic.
So, in an effort to illuminate the magnitude of this modern reality, and provide some tangible mental imagery, we dug to the bottom of the plastic pollution fact pile.
We hope these statistics will help shine some light on what we can all do about this emerging issue, and provide some new insights that inspire us all to rethink each one of our plastic-consumption habits...
doesn't most of it get recycled?
Well, some of our discarded plastics are successfully recycled. However, an overwhelming amount of plastics just doesn't make the cut of the specific requirements to make them suitable to be recycled at all.
The US Environmental Protection Agency estimated about a 9% recycle rate in 2017...
...But unfortunately that means that most of the remaining 91% ends up in landfill and our oceans.
Plastics and nature just don’t mix. They pollute delicate ecosystems with harmful chemicals and subject wildlife to choking hazards and reproductive issues.
By now, most of us are acutely aware of the obvious detrimental impact of plastics on the earth. Having said that, the depth of our knowledge (and the real nitty gritty details) often barely scrapes the surface of these realities.
With a little sleuthing, we were able to unmask some of the lesser-known stats surrounding this super important topic.
And let us tell you, once we learned the confrontingly hard-hitting reality checks regarding plastic as a pollutant, we were incredibly motivated to make a difference any way we could… And we’re sure you’ll take this as your cue to minimize your plastic pollution footprint, too!
Here’s 5 things you probably didn’t know about plastic pollution:
5. The Sheer Volume is Almost Beyond Comprehension
So, how much plastic waste are we talking?
About 8 million tons per year.
If you’re having difficulty picturing how vast the volume really is:
Visualize the equivalent of one garbage truck’s worth of plastic being dumped into our oceans every minute.
The total weight amounts to 90 aircraft carriers worth of plastic waste escaping into the oceans.
4. HALF OF ALL pLASTICS EVER MANUFACTURED HAVE BEEN MADE IN THE LAST 15 YEARS
Plastic production has increased exponentially since its invention.
From 2.3 million tons produced in 1950, to 448 million tons by 2015. And that total output is expected to double by 2050.
To quantify that data into a sobering mental picture: That’s more plastic by weight than fish in the oceans.
3. Some plastics take at least 400 years to break down
Oftentimes, compounds are added to make plastic stronger, more flexible, and durable for convenient everyday use. The downside to this comes when the plastic is discarded or, *gasp*, littered.
Many of these additives extend the life of the plastic, but this comes at a devastating environmental price after we’re finished using them. Some estimates suggest many common disposable plastics can take at least 400 years to break down.
2. Plastics are less recyclable now than before
Compared with materials that were in common use in the first half of the 20th century, such as glass, paper, iron, and aluminum; plastics have a low recovery rate.
That is, they are relatively inefficient to reuse as recycled scrap in the manufacturing process, due to significant processing difficulties.
Some of these challenges present themselves in the form of plastics possessing a low melting point, which prevents contaminants from being driven off during heating and reprocessing.
1. COVID-19 has only made things worse
Sadly, the global norm of utilizing PPE has significantly contributed to our ocean’s plastic pollution problem.
The overwhelming adoption of these single-use face masks and gloves - while helpful in limiting the spread of the virus - has taken an unfortunate toll on our oceans.
Although the statistics of plastic pollution are looking admittedly dismal, companies and cities are taking steps to minimize the problem, with improved waste management systems and more state-of-the-art recycling facilities.
The bright side? Companies nowadays are becoming more conscious of their product designs, giving more consideration to the short life of disposable packaging, and taking steps to reduce excessive and unnecessary single-use plastics.
So, how can you do your part?
Check out our tips for Reducing Your Carbon Footprint, One Plastic at a Time, and be sure to invest in high-quality, BPA and toxin-free reusable drinkware from Greens Steel.
Shop our collection of Greens Steel Stainless Steel Water Bottles & Tumblers here.
Thank you for reading, stay tuned every week for interesting articles about Greens Steel, health, & hydration.
All the best,
Greens Steel Wellness Contributor