In 1950, the global production of plastic exceeded 1 million tones, concerning environmentalists around the world. This figure had multiplied more than a hundred times by 1990, and in 2015 it reached 448 million tones!
Let’s take a second to process this.
The ‘first plastic’ (a synthetic polymer made from phenol and formaldehyde) was invented in 1907. In the century since, people have found so many uses for this cheap material that now instead of asking what IS made from plastic, we could save time by asking what IS NOT?
Plastic brought a revolutionary change to humankind. It is a light material, which is cheap to produce, tough, water resilient, and can adopt any form. Almost EVERY THING is either manufactured with plastic, wrapped with plastic, or transported with plastic
Look around you at any moment of any day and you will notice the chair you are sitting on has plastic parts, and so does the table, the soles of your shoes, take-away cups, pens, your laptop covers—all made from plastic.
Where does this plastic end up? There is no exact calculation of how much unrecycled plastic waste ends up in the ocean, but Jenna Jambeck, a University of Georgia engineering professor, presents a rough estimate: between 5.3 million and 14 million tons each year just from coastal regions!!! National Geographic reports that 40% of plastic is used just once!
Almost 700 species of animals from all over the world eat plastic, including fish, which are at the base of the food chain. This means that millions of animals suffer directly from plastic waste, including humans.
In addition to the visible plastic waste floating around beaches worldwide, a study was done analyzing sand for micro plastics, and 100% of the beaches analyzed tested positive. There are even places in the oceans where plastic is more abundant than plankton, a basic source of food for sea life.
The most common use of plastic worldwide is packaging. Water bottles take up the greatest portion of plastic waste. This is not surprising since, on average, a person drinks around 2L of water per day, and the list of countries that do not advise drinking tap water is rising every year, so the consumption of plastic bottles per household is expected to increase yet. Reusable water bottles can be found on Amazon for less than 10€ and can help you lessen your plastic footprint drastically.
Even if you only use your reusable bottle every once in a while, such as when going to the gym or out for a run, you would be making a good contribution to the environment by investing in a reusable water bottle.
The average life span of the plastic bags most commonly used for groceries is 12 minutes. Think about it. From the moment you leave a supermarket with a plastic bag until you dispose of it in the trash, how long does it take you? Supermarkets around the world are now charging their customers extra for each plastic bag they take. This movement only started in 2015, but it is a step in the right direction. If “unnecessary” expenditure doesn’t make us think twice before taking a plastic bag from the supermarket, maybe the fact that a single plastic bag takes between 400 and 1000 years to decompose will.
Luckily, we make trends out of everything and the pretty and stylish reusable shopping bags can be found in many stores, with even some high fashion brands making them. For example, Amazon sells a set of 6 reusable grocery bags for €15), while is selling their version of a leather grocery bag for just around €1,100
What can we do to not drown in plastic? We can find new materials that will be more sensitive to the planet while serving the same practical purpose. In the meantime, we need to constantly challenge ourselves in thinking of new ways to reduce our consumption of plastic.