30 Facts and Statistics About Plastic to Inspire Your Plastic Free Journey

30 Facts and Statistics About Plastic to Inspire Your Plastic Free Journey

Whether you’re participating in Plastic Free July, transitioning to a zero waste lifestyle or just writing a report on the environmental impacts of plastic, here are some facts and statistics about plastic that will shock you… and hopefully inspire you towards live a life with less plastic and reduce your plastic footprint.

Plastic production

1. Humans have produced 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics since 1950. (Science Daily 2017)

2. Global production of plastics have increased from 2 million metric tons in 1950 to over 400 million metric tons in 2015. (Science Daily 2017)

3. Plastic production is set to quadruple by 2050. (Science Advances 2017)

4. The production of virgin plastic has increased 200-fold since 1950 and has grown at a rate of 4% a year since 2000. (WWF 2019)

5. There has been more plastic produced in the last 10 years than in the entirety of the last 100 years. (Orb Media 2017)

6. This year five trillion plastic bags will be consumed. That’s 160,000 a second. (The World Counts 2020)

7. A million plastic bottles are bought every single minute. (The Guardian 2017)

8. 500 billion disposable cups are consumed every year. (Earth Day 2018)

9. Roughly 3.5 billion toothbrushes are sold worldwide each year, most of which end up in landfill or as plastic pollution in the natural environment. (WWF 2018)

10. Every day more than a billion plastic straws are used for 20 minutes or less and then tossed in the rubbish bin. (Orb Media 2017)

30 Facts and Statistics About Plastic to Inspire Your Plastic Free Journey
Photo: Anna Shvets.

Plastic and the environment

11. Plastic wreaks havoc in our oceans and marine life. It is projected that by the year 2050, there will be more plastic than fish (by weight) in the ocean. (Ellen Macarthur Foundation 2016)

12. Over 90% of seabirds have swallowed plastics. (Science Daily 2016)

13. Researchers predict that by 2050 99%of the world’s seabird species will have ingested plastic. (CSIRO 2015)

14. Plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals. (UNESCO 2020)

15. Roughly 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the oceans every year; that’s 3% of global annual plastics waste. (Science 2015)

16. By 2050, if consumption trends continue, there will be 12 billion metric tons of plastic in landfills. (Science Daily 2017)

17. Every minute, one garbage truck of plastic is dumped into our oceans. (World Economic Forum 2016)

18. There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean. (National Geographic 2015)

19. An average person consumes as much as 1,769 particles of plastic every week from tap water alone. (WWF 2019)

20. An estimated one million tons of tiny microfibres are discharged into waste water each year and more than half escape into the environment. (Orb Media 2017)

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21. About 1,900 synthetic plastic microfibers per garment are released when washed and due to its tiny sizes and shapes, aren’t captured in waste water treatment and enter our oceans. (Browne et al. 2011a)

22. Plastic can take up to 500 years to decompose. (WWF 2018)

Plastic and human health

23. Tap water is widely contaminated by plastic. About 83% of tap water samples were found to be polluted by plastic. (Orb Media 2017)

24. An average person could be ingesting approximately five grams of plastic every week. (WWF 2019)

25. Over a billion of takeaway disposable coffee cups end up in landfill each year as they cannot be recycled. (War on Waste 2017)

26. A single one litre plastic bottle can break down into enough pieces to stretch 1.6km (a mile) across a beach. (Orb Media 2017)

27. One-third of all fish caught in the UK were found to have tiny pieces of plastic. (Science Direct 2013)

Plastic and climate change

28. Greenhouse gas emissions from plastic could reach 56 gigatons, or up to 13% of Earth’s entire remaining carbon budget. (Center for International Environmental Law 2019)

Plastic recycling

29. Only 14% of plastic packaging worldwide is collected for recycling each year. (Ellen Macarthur Foundation 2016)

30. Only 9% of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled. (UN Environment 2020)

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Cover image by Karolina Grabowska.

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