Single Plastic Facts
Single Plastic Facts

43 Troubling Single-Use Plastic Facts

James Israelsen
By James Israelsen, Associate Writer
Published March 22, 2020
  • Of the roughly 300 million tons of plastic produced each year, half consists of single-use items.[8]
  • Commonly consumed single-use plastics include beverage bottles, plastic shopping bags, disposable straws, disposable cups, and packaging for a massive variety of consumer products.[3]
  • Since plastic products became popular in the 1950s, over 8 billion tons of plastic have been produced worldwide. This weight is equal to that of 47 million blue whales.[1]
  • While most plastic ends up in landfills, roughly 12.7 million tons end up in the ocean every year.[1]
  • Currently, there are more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic in our oceans.[1]
  • Even crustacean animals living in the deepest oceanic point, the Mariana Trench, have ingested plastic.[1]
  • Sea Life Plastic
    It ends up somewhere
  • By the year 2050, there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish.[9]
  • Over 35.4 million tons of plastic waste was generated in America in 2017. Of that, over 26 tons were disposed of in landfills, with only around 3,000 tons being recycled.[5]
  • Beverage companies around the world produce over 500 billion single-use plastic bottles each year.[1]
  • Many products that companies market as being biodegradable are often only biodegradable under very specific conditions—conditions that, more often than not, are not easily obtained.[1]
  • More than 30 countries around the world have banned single-use plastic grocery bags.[1]
  • Oxygen, combined with UV light, heat, or other forms of stress, is required to break down plastic chemical bonds.[7]
  • Consumers use single-use plastic products like grocery bags and drink bottles for an average of 12 minutes; these same products will take half a millennium to biodegrade/break down after being thrown away.[9]
  • Plastic Diet
    It's possible that many people have already ingested small particles of plastic
  • Because of the massive amount of plastic waste in our oceans, it is possible that people are consuming micro-particles of plastic when they eat seafood.[9]
  • Some plastics are dangerous to wildlife because their odors resemble certain species’ natural food sources.[9]
  • In 1953, the state of Vermont passed a law outlawing the sale of beverages in single-use plastic containers. The law was allowed to lapse after only four years.[9]
  • The ten American states that have “bottle deposit laws” that refund a tiny percentage of the beverage’s cost when the bottle is recycled have container-recovery rates almost three times higher than states without.[9]
  • Plastic bottles are most often recycled into non-recyclable products, such as carpets and synthetic clothing, meaning that recycling is only effective once before the plastic becomes permanent waste.[9]
  • Many of the world’s wealthier countries, such as the United States and Great Britain, export their plastic trash to smaller nations in Asia and Africa.[1]
  • Fast-food company McDonald’s has pledged to switch to sustainable (non-single-use plastic) packaging materials by the year 2025.[9]
  • Plastic Grocery Bags
    They add up
  • More than 1,000,000 disposable plastic bags are used every minute.[8]
  • The greatest use of plastics comes from packaging and container materials, where any other material would increase the weight of products being distributed for consumption three-fold, making such products much more expensive to ship, store, and purchase.[7]
  • There are thousands of types of plastics; different elements are added to plastics in order to change the strength, appearance, and maneuverability of each type.[7]
  • Commercial fishermen alone are responsible for dumping 52 million pounds of plastic packaging into the ocean each year.[7]
  • Plastics can be used for energy conservation, such as in car parts that, because they are more lightweight, reduce overall fuel consumption, or in home insulation to prevent heat loss.[7]
  • Common plastics have a life expectancy of 450 years in seawater.[7]
  • Plastics start as either gases or liquids; heat and/or pressure is then used to convert them into a solid form.[7]
  • Each year, the average American will personally throw away 185 pounds of plastic.[4]
  • Plastic Production
    We are drowning in plastic

  • The chemical industry in modern times owes its rapid growth to the increase in demand for plastics.[7]
  • One in three sea turtles will ingest plastic in their lifetime, and more than half the dolphin and whale populations already have.[1]
  • Plastics are necessary for modern, renewable energy processes; both solar and wind power generators require plastic parts.[7]
  • Every year, around 2 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals die due to plastic pollution in the oceans.[7]
  • Plastic Drinking Straws
    Even small things like this can have a big impact
  • Disposable plastic drinking straws were introduced in the 1960s; environmentalists estimate that at this point in time, Americans alone use and throw away 500 million straws every day.[2]
  • In the 2010s, much of the debate over banning the production and sale of single-use plastics became focused on plastic straws, a common-place commodity all over the world that contributes a surprising amount to the total plastic waste.[2]
  • China is one of the world’s biggest consumers of single-use plastic, creating almost twice as much plastic waste as the United States.[6]
  • China recently passed legislation intended to reduce the use of single-use plastics, including banning restaurants and hotels from providing disposable straws and banning markets from offering plastic bags for merchandise.[6]
  • Plastics are formed of monomers, chemical units that form long bonds under certain conditions.[7]
  • In 2016, 74% of Americans claimed to believe that the government should do whatever it takes to protect the environment from things like plastic pollution.[9]
  • It is estimated that over 90% of seabirds have bits of plastic in their stomachs.[8]
  • Plastic Ocean
    It will remain long after those who made it and used it are gone
  • Plastic bottles account for 14% of all plastic waste.[8]
  • Some experts point out that individual acts of recycling will have virtually no effect on the problem of plastic pollution. They argue that until major changes are made in manufacturing laws and practices, the trend of plastic pollution will get worse.[9]
  • Manufacturing plastic water bottles takes roughly 6 times the amount of water per bottle as is contained in each bottle.[8]
  • Humans have produced more plastic over the last decade (2010s) than was created in the entire 20th century.[8]

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