450 years — that’s how long it takes for a plastic bottle to break down. A frightening number, especially when you look at the following facts:
- 12 minutes: the average amount of time a plastic bag is used before it lands in the garbage.(1)
- 269,000 tons of plastic can be found in our oceans.(2)
- 1 million seabirds and around 135,000 marine mammals die each year because of plastic waste.(3)
- 300 million tons of plastic is produced every year worldwide. Compare that to 1950, when it was 1.5 million tons.(4)
- 4.7 billion plastic straws are used and thrown away each year — just in the UK.(5)
- An estimated 6 times more plastic than plankton is floating in many parts of the ocean worldwide.(6)
- By 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the sea.(7)
Since plastic products make our daily lives more convenient, life without plastic is unimaginable for many people today. The advantages of coffee-to-go cups, prepared salads in plastic packaging, disposable diapers, food storage containers, and vacuum cleaners are too great to give up. But we rarely consider the consequences of our plastic consumption.
You are what you eat: plastic in our food
You would never bite into a plastic bottle because it tastes good, right? But have you ever considered the fact that you actually do eat plastic sometimes, which is made of petroleum? Plastic does not completely break down in the oceans, which means that tiny particles — microplastics — remain in the water. Fish and other sea creatures often mistake this for plants or plankton — food — and ingest it. When we eat the fish, we then also eat the plastic it consumed.
Another example is plastic bottles: if you think it is helpful to use these more than once, you are mistaken.
Microplastics in our daily life
Toothpaste, facial peels, shower gels, and face creams: plastic is hidden in many beauty products. Tiny microbeads of plastic are intentionally added to the products to make our teeth white, our face glow, and our skin silky. This is how plastics get into our bodies, but also down the drain into the water, and then into the ocean.
Plastic: toxic for humans
A number of studies show how harmful plastic is for humans: Bisphenol A, phthalate plasticizers, formaldehyde — these and many other chemicals contained in plastic are believed to cause cancer, infertility, allergies, and other health problems.
4 tips to avoid plastic
Completely eliminating plastic from our life is not very easy — maybe even impossible. But with a few tips you can at least reduce how much you use:
Ultimately it is about awareness: do I really need this or that product in my life? Or can I go without it? Only when we realize that the problem with plastic is a global one will we be able to make sustainable changes.
Make a Change and join Run For The Oceans starting June 8th to fight marine plastic pollution!