Single-use plastic products and packaging are creating one of today's largest environmental problems: waste. Plastic production has increased rapidly over the years to the 300 million tons of plastic we produce each year globally now (1). These huge amounts of conventional plastics are derived from fossil fuels such as crude oil and natural gas; non-renewable resources which are very difficult to recycle (2).
Plastic is a material that is made to last forever, which means using it once and throwing it away is a big problem! Of the 8.3 billion tons of plastic ever made, three quarters of it is already waste. That is 6.3 BILLION tons of plastic waste (3), of which only 9% has ever been recycled, meaning that the vast majority of all our plastic production is accumulating in landfills or seeping into the natural environment. In 2010 alone, 8 million tons of plastic entered the ocean (1), the equivalent of five plastic bags for every foot of coastline around the globe (3), and this ocean plastic is killing millions of marine animals every year (4).
Plastic is not biodegradable, meaning that over time it instead breaks down into tiny pieces (microplastics) and releases the toxic chemical additives from the plastic in the process (5). On some beaches in Hawaii, as much as 15% of the sand is actually grains of microplastic (3). These microplastics and toxins are not only being found all over the globe but are also being found inside animals and humans, causing all kinds of health concerns.
Don't get us wrong - plastic is an amazing material that certainly has its place. The issue is that 40% of it is used just once (mostly in the form of packaging) and then discarded (4), when it is made to last forever. We need to switch our thinking! Almost all single-use plastics have sustainable alternatives that are available NOW, and making these simple, everyday swaps will drastically reduce future plastic waste that is destined to wreaking further havoc on the world. It is time to eliminate single-use plastics for the sake of human health and the Earth!
Head to our Sustainable Living Articles page to learn ways to reduce your plastic waste and help the Earth!