Single-use plastics and our responsibilities
Published 10:27 am Wednesday, August 3, 2022
When considering Earth Day statistics, it seems that a more responsible goal for each of us would be to not purchase or use single-use plastics. Every day, each of us votes with the dollars that we spend. If we continue to purchase single-use bottles, plates, cups, and straws, just to name a few, we are supporting the continued manufacturing of them.
The majority of single-use plastics are sent to our landfills, or dumped into our oceans, in spite of our ardent efforts at recycling. Think before you spend, for your home, your church, or your community. Change your habits to include paper products, which are compostable, or biodegradable materials. Small changes can affect change.
Just as we all have gotten into the habit of recycling, we can change our consumption habits, which will change the course of the health of our planet. Here are a few statistics regarding single-use plastics:
- Around 380 million metric tons of plastic are being produced yearly, and 9.1 billion tons of plastic have been produced since plastic was introduced in the 1950s. The amount of plastic produced in a year is roughly the same as the entire weight of humanity.
- Humans use about 1.2 million plastic bottles per minute in total. Approximately 91% of plastic is not recycled. Roughly half of our global annual plastic production is destined for a single-use product.
- 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).
- Americans purchase about 50 billion water bottles per year, averaging about 13 bottles per month for every person in the U.S.! That means by using a reusable water bottle, you could save an average of 156 plastic bottles annually.
- Five trillion plastic bags are produced worldwide annually. It can take up to 1,000 years for a bag to disintegrate completely. Americans throw away 100 billion bags annually; the equivalent of dumping nearly 12 million barrels of crude oil! By switching to reusable shopping bags, we can eliminate that waste, which amounts to about 307 bags per person.
- Americans alone use half a billion drinking straws every day. The world uses 500 billion plastic cups every year. The world also produces more than 29 million tons of polystyrene (plastic foam) each year. Americans alone throw away around 25 billion Styrofoam coffee cups every year. In 2017, packaging production constituted the highest-demanded use for plastic, with 146 million metric tons used.
- At least 14 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year. Many countries lack the infrastructure to prevent plastic pollution. Infrastructure includes sanitary landfills, incineration facilities, recycling capacity, circular economy infrastructure, and proper management and disposal of waste systems.
- When plastics end up in landfills, they aren’t harmless. They break down into tiny toxic particles that contaminate the soil and waterways and enter the food chain when animals accidentally ingest them. Researchers in Germany indicate that terrestrial microplastic pollution is much higher than marine microplastic pollution – estimated at four to 23 times higher, depending on the environment. This could ultimately have adverse health effects on humans and animals.
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Submitted by Denny Crowe