Plastic pollution is the worst, and the worst part is that it’s everywhere. It’s in our oceans, on land; if you take a walk through your neighborhood, I bet you’ll find plastic pollution pretty close to where you live. It seems so inescapable.
There are things we can do in our own lives to reduce how much plastic pollution is created. But first, let’s talk about the pollution itself. Here’s 10 facts about plastic pollution you should know.
1. Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the Earth four times. That’s a lot of plastic!
2. In Los Angeles alone, 10 metric tons of plastic fragments are carried into the Pacific Ocean every day. How is the ocean even surviving?
3. Americans throw away 35 billion plastic water bottles a year. That’s way too many.
4. 93% of Americans six years or older test positive for BPA, a chemical found in some types of plastics. Fortunately, industries and governments have been moving away from BPA quickly, as the chemical mimics estrogen and can be a hormone disruptor.
5. 44% of seabirds and 22% of cetaceans have been documented to have plastic either in or on their bodies.
6. A million seabirds die each year due to plastic in our oceans.
7. On top of that, 100,000 marine mammals die each year from ingesting or getting plastic stuck on them.
8. We’ve produced more plastic in the last decade than we did in the previous century.
9. The average American throws out 185 pounds of plastic each year.
10. Worldwide, we use and discard half a trillion plastic bags each year. That’s 500,000,000,000. Way too many, right?
Okay. So those are the facts about plastic pollution. Nothing we can do about it, right? Wrong! There’s quite a bit that you and I can do in our day to day lives to reduce our impact and stop plastic pollution.
1. Talk to people about plastic pollution. The fight to protect our planet is one that’s going to involve everyone, and everyone has a good reason to treat the Earth better. So talk to people about it. Bring up plastic pollution. Talk about how we can work together to reduce and eventually stop it.
2. Support local plastic bag bans. Paper, while not a perfect substance, is considerably more sustainable and less polluting than plastic. Paper bags are able to break down over time and naturally biodegrade.
3. Pick up litter! Even if you’re inland, picking up litter can help keep it from reaching the ocean. Trash in your neighborhood can end up in local waterways which often inevitably lead to the ocean. If you live on the coast, volunteer for beach trash cleanups.
4. Recycle your plastics. Avoid accepting plastic bags and other non-recyclable plastics. If you do take a plastic bag, ask if your local grocer recycles them for customers.
5. Consider all the items you purchase regularly and find out if there are plastic alternatives available for you.
6. Store files in the cloud. Buy mp3s instead of CDs. Going digital isn’t just way more efficient and convenient, it keeps a lot of CDs and DVDs out of the dump.
7. Don’t accept single-use cups from coffee shops and restaurants. Bring with you your own travel mug to use for drinks or ask for a reusable mug when you order.
8. Choose reusable bags. Cloth bags last a long time when made well and stop quite a bit of plastic bag pollution from entering the atmosphere. Just remember: these bags are like clothes. Throw them in the wash every couple uses. They can grow bacteria that’ll make you sick!
9. Refuse any and all single-serve packaging. Don’t accept plastic utensils from takeout restaurants. Avoid disposable food packaging.
10. If you do get a plastic item, reuse it as many times as you can. If you have to buy a bottle of water, refill that bottle of water as many times as you can. Or find a use for it, like storing seeds or as a small flower planter.