Plastic pollution is one of the most important and urgent issues facing the health of our oceans and the planet.



  • Since 1950 annual plastic has increased nearly 200-fold
  • It is estimated that over 381 million tonnes of plastic were produced in 2015- That is more than one tonne of plastic for every person alive
  • The amount of plastic produced annually is roughly equivalent to the mass of two-thirds of the world population. There is now more plastic than people
  • The production of plastic uses around eight percent of the world’s oil production (bioplastics are not a good solution as they require food source crops)
  • The amount of petroleum it takes to produce one plastic bag could drive a car 11 metres (36 ft)
  • Over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century

SOURCES (,, Rachel Carson Council)[Geyer, R., Jambeck, J. R., & Law, K. L. (2017)]

  • Virtually every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists in some shape or form (with the exception of the small amount that has been incinerated)
  • Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times
  • By 2050 there will be 12 billion metric tons of plastic in landfills
  • Plastic accounts for around 10 percent of the total waste we generate.
  • It takes 500-1,000 years for plastic to degrade

SOURCES( Earth Policy Institute, Plastic Oceans International, BBC, EPA, World Wildlife Federation, Plastic Pollution Coalition)

  • Only five percent of the plastics produced is recovered worldwide
  • Only 12% of the energy required to convert petroleum into plastic is needed to recycle it
  • Recycling creates 6 times more jobs than land-filling and 36 times more than incinerating
  • If just one person used recycled plastic bags over their lifetime, they would be removing 22,000 plastic bags from the environment, yet the average family recycles less than 15bags/year
  • A recycled product can be back on the shelves again within a single month
  • Upcycling is a creative (and increasingly popular) method of reusing common plastic objects

SOURCES (,, PADI International,, Cut Plastic Sheeting UK, American Chemistry Council, National Association for PET Container Resources)

  • The average person eats 70,000 microplastics each year
  • 93 percent of Americans age six or older test positive for BPA (a plastic chemical)
  • Plastic chemicals can be absorbed by the body
  • Some of these compounds found in plastic have been found to alter hormones or have other potential human health effects
  • Over 170 fracking chemicals that are used to produce the main feedstocks for plastic have known human health impacts, including cancer, neurological, reproductive, and developmental toxicity, impairment of the immune system, and more.

SOURCES (Center for International and Environmental Law, Plastic Pollution Coalition,Plastic Pollution Coalition, Teach the Earth, Ecology Center, Conservation International)

  • 73% of all beach litter is plastic
  • Cigarette filters are made out of cellulose acetate, a plastic-like material which is the most common form of marine litter
  • Plastic food wrappers, bottles, cups, caps, cigarette lighters, toys, bags, straws, are other common types beach litter
  • 700,000 synthetic microfibers from laundry are washed into our waterways daily
  • Plastic waste is entering the ocean at a rate of about 11 million metric tons a year and could grow to 29 million metric tons in the next 10years

SOURCES (Global Citizen, Surfers Against Sewage, National Geographic, Conservation International, Beachapedia,, Plastic Pollution Coalition)

  • There may now be around 5.25 trillion macro and microplastic pieces floating in the open ocean Weighing up to 269,000 tonnes
  • By 2050, ocean plastic will outweigh all of the ocean’s fish
  • 46 percent of plastics float and can drift for years before eventually concentrating in 5 ocean gyres
  • 70 percent of ocean garbage actually sinks to the seafloor
  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch — includes an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of trash and covers an area twice the size of Texas.

SOURCES (Better World Campaign, EPA, Surfers Against Sewage,, NOAA, National Geographic, 5Gyers, Plastic Pollution Coalition)

  • The US represents 4% of the world’s population but produces 12% of municipal solid waste worldwide
  • The US produces about 234lb (106.2kg) of plastic waste per person per year
  • The average American throws away approximately 185 pounds of plastic per year. which includes 35 billion plastic water bottles
  • 0.11 million metric tons of waterborne plastic garbage comes from the United States
  • 93 percent of Americans age six or older test positive for BPA (a plastic chemical).

SOURCES (Statista, EPA, EcoWatch, The Guardian,, Plastic Pollution Coalition)

  • 50 percent of the plastic is just once and then thrown away
  • 40% of single-use plastic comes from packaging
  • Single-use plastic accounts for about 300 million tons of plastic every year, with 40% from packaging
  • The average time that a plastic bag is used for is … 12 minutes
  • Single use plastic creates more than 8 million tons of waste in the ocean every year and most of marine debri

SOURCES (EPA, Better World Campaign, Plastic Oceans, Conservation International, National Geographic,,,, Plastic Pollution Coalition)

  • Plastic is killing more than 1.1 million seabirds and animals every year.
  • Scientists have found plastic fragments in hundreds of animal species including 86% of all sea turtle species, 44% of all seabird species, and 43% of all marine mammal
  • Animals ingest plastics by mistake filling their stomachs disrupting their digestion causing starvation and other health issues
  • Animals get entangled in plastic debri cutting circulation, restricting movement, and causing injury or death
  • Chemicals from plastic cause health issues for animals and humans

SOURCES (Policy-Oriented Marine Environment Research in the Southern European Seas, World Wildlife Fund, Tropical Conservation Fund, National Geographic, World Animal Protection, Plastic Pollution Coalition)

  • Annually approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide. More than 2 million bags are used every minute
  • Worldwide, 500 billion disposable cups are used daily
  • 500,000 single-use plastic straws are used every single day
  • 1 million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute
  • Cigarette butts, made from types of plastic, are the most common types of litter

SOURCES (Earth Policy Institute, The Guardian, National Geographic, NOAA, Plastic Oceans,,, NRDC, Plastic Pollution Coalition)


infographic- plastic pollution in the usa infographic - plastic pollution infographic - plastic beach and marine litter infographic - plastic waste infographic – single use plastic



Before someone reading this starts giving all the reasons why we can’t survive without plastic and pointing out the fact that I’m probably working on something made out of plastic, wearing something made out of plastic, talking on something made out of plastic, driving something that’s full of plastic, writing with something made out of plastic, watching something made out of plastic, eating something that was wrapped in plastic, using things that were delivered in plastic, and all the other things that are involved in your time.

I get it.

Finding the answers to plastic pollution is not going to be easy, but it is absolutely essential.

A handful of people bringing their own grocery bags to the store or refusing to use styrofoam cups is not going to solve the problem.

Although some regulation could help, banning plastic completely is probably not a practical solution. It would have massive economic implications not just for business and industry, but also on the poor. There is clear evidence that shows that the majority of plastic pollution is actually coming from impoverished areas. We can no longer bury our plastic pollution problems in the ground or ship them off to other countries.

An issue as massive as plastic pollution requires a massive solution. It is not going to work unless we get everyone on board.

We have to think bigger and stretch our creativity using multiple angles to find solutions that are much farther reaching, beyond just people with certain political beliefs and a certain income level.

The only real practical approach is to design circular systems that take into consideration the entire life cycle of the plastic.

Recycling has been a failure. Less than 9 percent of certain types of plastic gets recycled. Now that China is no longer excepting solid waste from other countries, that modest figure is sure to shrink. Recycling centers are in crisis mode.

Producers of plastics, the companies that use them and consumers all have a role to play. Government has a role to play as well.

Instead of “out sight out of mind” attitudes, companies need to take responsibility for what happens to the plastic once it leaves their warehouses. This idea can immediately cause consternation to businesses that are always thinking about cutting expenses and staying competitive.

The price of complacency is far worse. Plastic pollution is already costing us billions in its devastation of marine fisheries, contamination of beaches and waterways, destruction of communities, food poisoning and more. We are paying not only with money, but also with the extinction of species, human health and quality of life.

A multilateral approach to addressing the issue could minimize any costs if spread across stakeholders.

There are also opportunities to generate new revenues.

Governments should incentivize both best practices and innovations for businesses and consumers to break the cycle of plastic pollution and create a new regenerative cycle of longevity and prosperity for all people.

Here is one inspiring approach to reducing plastic pollution in our oceans by 80%…
Here’s how we can eradicate plastic pollution by 2040

image credit: ‘Breaking the Plastic Wave’, SYSTEMIQ

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