You use it to brush your teeth. You touch it when typing an email at work. You carry your groceries home in it. You open your fridge, your cupboards, your bathroom cabinet, and there it is – plastic.
Plastic is literally everywhere, constantly at our fingertips. Look around you now – we bet you can find at least 1 plastic object in your view. But have you ever really stopped to think of the implications of plastic, or what our plastic fantastic lives are doing to the world? Because trust us, once you do, you won’t go back. And that’s a damn good thing.
Every piece of plastic ever produced is still in existence today
Plastic is made from propylene, a chemical component of petroleum. Petroleum is a material unrecognized by the organisms that normally break down organic matter, which makes plastic one thing – non biodegradable. It can be broken down into smaller pieces (microplastics), it can be changed into different forms, but it can’t disappear completely. So that sweet wrapper or kids toy packaging you threw away on your 4th birthday? It still exists today.
In the past 10 years we’ve used more plastic than in the last 50 combined
Plastic only came into mass production in the 1950’s, yet in the last 10 years we’ve used more of it than in the last 50 years combined – how crazy is that?
Enough plastic is thrown away every year to circle the earth four times
It’s estimated that 33-50% of plastic gets used just once, and is then thrown away. In the US alone, 30 million tonnes of plastic is disposed of each year, ending up in landfill or worse, in the ocean.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is twice the size of Texas
If you’ve never heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, do a quick Google search – what you’ll find will appall you. Most of the plastic that doesn’t end up in landfill eventually finds its way out to sea, where it then gets picked up by ocean currents, or ‘gyres’. These gyres form giant floating masses, or ocean garbage patches, creating what’s known as ‘plastic soup’. There are 5 of these garbage patches throughout the world, the most famous of which is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the North Pacific Ocean.
Around 8 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the ocean each year
The effects of plastic in the ocean are pretty devastating. Around 1 million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals die each year from ingesting plastic, getting trapped in fishing nets, and mistaking floating objects like plastic bags for food. Plastic can also get broken down in the ocean into tiny particles called micro plastics, which marine mammals like fish mistake for food.
Around 500 billion plastic bags are produced annually
This figure is literally bonkers. It’s estimated that on average we use a plastic bag for just 12 minutes, yet it takes around 1000 years to eventually disappear. Australian’s alone use roughly 3.92 billion plastic bags every single year. Tied together, that’s enough to circle the world 24 times.
Tests done in 2004 concluded that 93% of people in the US aged six plus had evidence of BPA in their system
BPA, or Bisphenol A, is a compound added to plastic to help it harden. It’s used everywhere, from dental sealants, to water bottles, to the lining of canned foods and drinks, yet few people know of its existence. BPA has been linked to health problems including cancer, reproduction issues, obesity and diabetes.
Mind blown, right?
Looking for more inspiration on why we should all be reducing our plastic footprint? Head on over to contiki.com/storytellers to watch the Contiki Storytellers documentary and discover the devastating impact plastic can have on the ocean and the marine animals who call it home.