30 Facts & Statistics To Inspire Your Plastic Free Conversion

30 Facts & Statistics To Inspire Your Plastic Free Conversion

In this day and age, we all know that plastics are terrible for our planet. They’re suffocating our oceans, choking wildlife, and making the places we call home messy and untidy. Enough is enough! until you walk into your local supermarket and realise it’s impossible to buy practically anything without also buying plastic waste. Or, you see a pair of awesome trousers but ah, they’re 100% polyester. When you’re living in a plastic-oriented world, it can be tough to keep your journey towards plastic free living on track. But, whilst big businesses and corporations undoubtedly need to step up their game, it’s important that we all do our bit to secure a greener, cleaner future for ourselves and our children. Here are 30 facts and plastic waste statistics to help inspire your plastic free conversion.  

  1. It is estimated that most plastics take between 500 years and 1,000 years to decompose. This means that plastics produced in 1955 will still be around in the year 2455 (if not even longer)!

  2. Each and every year, between 4.8 million and 12.7 million tonnes of plastic enter into our oceans. This is according to figures released in Science journal in 2015. A lot of the plastic waste that doesn’t go into landfill or through recycling systems instead ends up making its way into the oceans, either as large, recognizable items, or as microplastics (below 5mm in length). These large plastic items will break down over the years, but microplastics never actually go away. 

  3. Microplastics are raining down from the sky. The Pyrenees Mountains in southern France might appear to be a beautiful, untouched natural landscape, but scientists have recorded a daily rate of 365 microplastic particles per square meter falling from the sky there. 

  4. Since the 1950s, a whopping 9 billion pieces of plastic have been produced. And this figure is as of 2017. Since then, even more plastic has been created.

  5. As of 2015, only 9% of the plastic waste ever produced has been recycled. Another 12% was incinerated. And the rest? 79% of plastic waste has either been buried in landfills, or ended up elsewhere in the environment, including the oceans. 

  6. In London alone, the average adult buys more than three single-use plastic water bottles every week. This totals up at a shocking 175 plastic bottles per person, per year. 

  7. Across the UK, 7.7 billion single-use plastic water bottles are bought every year.

  8. Across the globe, plastic straws are one of the top ten contributors to plastic marine debris. On U.S shorelines, 7.5 million plastic straws were found during a five year long cleanup. 

  9. In England, we are just as obsessed with plastic drinking straws. Each year, we use 4.7 billion of them. 

  10.  We also use 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds each and every year in the UK. Around 10% of these cotton buds are flushed down toilets, often leading them into our streams, rivers, and oceans. 

  11.  Each year, an estimated 100,000 marine mammals die worldwide, as a direct result of plastic pollution. This includes dolphins, porpoises, seals, sea lions, and even whales. These mammals die from plastic pollution either by ingesting it, or by becoming entangled in it. 

  12. Across the world, 73% of all litter found on beaches is plastic, with key offenders being single-use plastic bottles, bottle caps, food wrappers, carriers bags, and polystyrene.

  13.  It is estimated that by 2040, the amount of plastic pollution in our oceans will quadruple. 

  14.  By 2050, there could be more plastic in our oceans than fish, unless drastic action is taken. Think 2050 sounds far away? Well, actually we’ll be there in just another 29 years.

  15.  Almost every seabird on the planet is consuming plastic. With so much plastic waste in our oceans, it is currently estimated that around 90% of seabirds are regularly ingesting the stuff. By 2050, it’s expected that all seabirds will be regularly consuming plastic. 

  16.  It is highly likely that the ingestion of microplastics is damaging to human health, due to the harmful chemicals found in some plastics. These chemicals have been linked to a wide number of health problems, from reproductive harm, to obesity, and organ problems. We can ingest these microplastics through our food, particularly seafoods, but we also breathe them in through the air.

  17. Each year, it is thought that the average person consumes around 70,000 microplastics. Per meal, that’s around 100 pieces of microplastic.

  18.  In 2017, Kenya introduced one of the world’s toughest laws against single-use plastic carrier bags. In Kenya, it is now illegal to produce, sell, or even use single-use plastic bags. Doing so risks imprisonment for a maxim of four years, or a fine of over £30,000.

  19.  In the UK, the average person gets through 27,545kg of plastic each year. Most families throw away around 40kg of plastic, which could actually have been recycled. 

  20.  With most beauty products still coming wrapped in plastics, the beauty industry currently produces more than 120 billion units of plastic packaging each and every year. 

  21.  It’s not just the packaging of beauty products that are made from and contain microplastics. Beat The Microbead put a 50ml bottle of anti-aging cream to the test, and found that it contained around 1.48 million polyethylene particles! And that’s just one product. How many cosmetics do you use each and every single day? 

  22.   Around 60% of fabrics used to make clothing are plastic. This includes materials such as polyester, acrylic and nylon textiles, and they’re widely used in the fast fashion industry largely due to their affordability. 

  23.  Every year, clothes washing in the UK alone is estimated to produce around 4,000 tonnes of plastic microfibre pollution. It’s thought that 1,600 tonnes of this is making its way into our rivers and waterways, and one single washing load of clothes could be creating up to 17 million microplastic fibres.

  24.  The fast fashion industry is a huge polluter. In fact, it produces 10% of all humanity’s carbon emission, it’s the second biggest consumer of the globe’s water supply, and it pollutes the oceans with microplastics. 

  25.  Whilst some of us are already in the good habit of donating or upcycling our old clothes, an asstounding 85% of textiles still end up going to landfill each year (most of which are made from plastics).

Plastic facts to inspire hopefulness: 

  1.  In Mumbai, an Indian lawyer organised the world’s largest beach clean up. The clean up took three years and hundreds of volunteers, but over 5,000 tonnes of litter was removed. For the first time in twenty years, turtles returned to the beach. 

  2.   Australian surfers have come up with a clever invention to suck plastic right out of our oceans. These “seabins” can collect 1.5kg of plastic waste on a typical day. This number might sound a little unimpressive, but there are plans to deploy the seabins to 170 different countries. 

  3.  Indonesia is currently the world’s biggest plastic polluter after China. In 2017, Indonesia pledged $1 billion per year to spend on ocean clean up efforts. This could see Indonesia’s marine waste reduced by 70%!
  4.  Supermarkets in the UK are cracking down on plastic packaging. Waitrose is trialling a “bring your own container” scheme, where you can buy dry goods, such as pasta, rice, and coffee, without any packaging whatsoever. Morrisons have started a plastic-free fruit and veg aisles across a selection of its stores, and Sainsburys has removed single-use plastic bags for its fruit and veg section and its bakery section.

  5.  Between 2019 - 2020, 564 million single-use plastic carrier bags were sold to customers. This may sound like a crazy figure, but before the 5p charge was introduced on single-use plastic carrier bags in the UK, sales were at 7.64 billion in 2014. Although the figure for 2019 - 2020 is still way too high, progress is being made, and you should feel proud of yourself for making good use of your “bags for life”!

Many of these plastic waste statistics and facts are overwhelming. The impact that humans have had on the planet is devastating and deeply upsetting, but as these final few facts go to show, there’s still hope. If we all do our bit, and pressurise big businesses and governments to do the same, then we can stop these grisly projections for the future from coming true.