23 Shocking Facts about Plastic Pollution You Should Know (and 10 Incredibly Simple Ways to Beat It)

“On World Environment Day, the message is simple: reject single-use plastic. Refuse what you can’t re-use. Together, we can chart a path to a cleaner, greener world.” — Secretary-General, António Guterres

Plastic Waste in Lagos

Yes, the message is simple: Refuse what you can’t reuse.

The rapid growth of plastic use is threatening our planet. It continues to poison and injure marine life, disrupts human hormones, litter beaches and landscapes, clogs our waste streams and landfills, and the most alarming is that it is rising.

It is interesting that there can’t be a better time to act on the menace of plastic pollution than now. According to the United Nations Environment Programme and the EcoWatch here are some interesting Plastic Pollution facts:

  1. Every year the world uses up to 5 trillion plastic bags
  2. Each year, at least 13 million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans, the equivalent of a full garbage truck every minute.
  3. In the last decade, we produced more plastic than in the whole last century
  4. 50 per cent of the plastic we use is single-use or disposable
  5. We buy 1 million plastic bottles every minute
  6. Plastic makes up 10% of all of the waste we generate
  7. Billions of pounds of plastic can be found in swirling convergences in the oceans making up about 40 per cent of the world’s ocean surfaces. 80 per cent of pollution enters the ocean from the land.
  8. Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times.
  9. In the Los Angeles area alone, 10 metric tons of plastic fragments—like grocery bags, straws and soda bottles—are carried into the Pacific Ocean every day.
  10. We currently recover only five per cent of the plastics we produce.
  11. The average American throws away approximately 185 pounds of plastic per year.
  12. The production of plastic uses around eight per cent of the world’s oil production (bioplastics are not a good solution as they require food source crops).
  13. Americans throw away 35 billion plastic water bottles every year (source: Brita)
  14. Plastic in the ocean breaks down into such small segments that pieces of plastic from a one-litre bottle could end up on every mile of beach throughout the world.
  15. 46 per cent of plastics float (EPA 2006) and it can drift for years before eventually concentrating in the ocean gyres.
  16. It takes 500-1,000 years for plastic to degrade.
  17. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is located in the North Pacific Gyre off the coast of California and is the largest ocean garbage site in the world. This floating mass of plastic is twice the size of Texas, with plastic pieces outnumbering sea life six to one.
  18. Plastic constitutes approximately 90 per cent of all trash floating on the ocean’s surface, with 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile.
  19. One million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans.
  20. 44 per cent of all seabird species, 22 per cent of cetaceans, all sea turtle species and a growing list of fish species have been documented with plastic in or around their bodies.
  21. In samples collected in Lake Erie, 85 per cent of the plastic particles were smaller than two-tenths of an inch, and much of that was microscopic. Researchers found 1,500 and 1.7 million of these particles per square mile.
  22. Plastic chemicals can be absorbed by the body—93 per cent of Americans age six or older test positive for BPA (a plastic chemical).
  23. Some of these compounds found in plastic have been found to alter hormones or have other potential human health effects.

As India hosts the global 2018 World Environment Day today with the theme: “Beat Plastic Pollution,” here are 10 Simple Ways to “Beat Plastic Pollution” highlighted by EcoWatch


  • Choose to reuse when it comes to shopping bags and bottled water. Cloth bags and metal or glass reusable bottles are available locally at great prices.
  • Refuse single-serving packaging, excess packaging, straws and other “disposable” plastics. Carry reusable utensils in your purse, backpack or car to use at bbq’s, potlucks or take-out restaurants.
  • Reduce everyday plastics such as sandwich bags and juice cartons by replacing them with a reusable lunch bag/box that includes a thermos.
  • Bring your to-go mug with you to the coffee shop, smoothie shop or restaurants that let you use them, which is a great way to reduce lids, plastic cups and/or plastic-lined cups.
  • Go digital! No need for plastic CDs, DVDs and jewel cases when you can buy your music and videos online.
  • Seek out alternatives to the plastic items that you rely on.
  • Recycle. If you must use plastic, try to choose #1 (PETE) or #2 (HDPE), which are the most commonly recycled plastics. Avoid plastic bags and polystyrene foam as both typically have very low recycling rates.
  • Support plastic bag bans, polystyrene foam bans and bottle recycling bills.
  • Spread the word. Talk to your family and friends about why it is important to reduce plastic in our lives and the nasty impacts of plastic pollution. (You can get sample content to share on )

And I’d quickly add:

Use the Hash Tag #BeatPlasticPollution. You can also get fun and creative content to share on the World Environment Day Toolkit Platform.

PS: Need a freelance writer? Shoot me a mail or DM me on Twitter.

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