The Global Threat of Plastic Pollution
The ever-increasing production of plastics is creating serious problems for land, water, and wildlife. While plastics have led to many advancements in medicine, technology, and transportation, it has also led to a sharp increase in disposable plastic packaging and products. The reality is that recycling will never be able to keep pace with the increase of plastics production.
Since the 1950s, plastic production worldwide has exploded from about 2 million tons annually to a whopping 440 million tons in 2015.
Plastics production is expected to double in the next 20 years and nearly quadruple by 2050.
Only 9% of plastics ever created has been recycled. Every piece of plastic ever made still exists.
Nearly one-third of all plastics produced in the world end up oceans, in soils, or as litter. By 2050, if this trend continues, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
The vast majority of plastics are made from natural gas, oil, or coal. These plastics are not biodegradable, meaning they do not decompose. When plastic objects end up as litter, they break down into tiny pieces when exposed to sunlight and other elements. These tiny particles are called microplastics, and they’ve been found in marine animals, soils and water.
The global scale of plastic pollution may feel overwhelming, but there’s a lot YOU can do. Collectively, engaged, educated, and responsible individuals can transform entire communities.
Here’s how you can start:
- Avoid single-use plastic disposables, including plastic cups, bottles, utensils, bags, and take-out containers. Create a Zero Waste to-go kit containing reusable alternatives and keep it in your car or bike basket.
- Reduce your consumption of plastic packaging. About 40% of plastic produced is packaging, used just once and then discarded. Avoid plastic packaging by shopping in bulk or at farmer’s markets, where plastic packaging isn’t the norm.
- Move towards natural fiber clothing, such as cotton, linen, and silk. Laundering clothes release fibers that are so small they get past treatment systems and enter rivers, lakes, and oceans. Natural fibers will biodegrade over time, but synthetic fibers (which contain plastic) do not.
How to Quit Plastics Workbook
Do you want to reduce your plastic use, but aren’t sure where to start? Check out Eco-Cycle’s Reduce Your Plastic Use Workbook—a step by step guide that will show you how to audit your waste and recycling, choose items to focus on reducing or replacing monthly, how to build your own Zero Waste kit, as well as some fun and easy DIY recipes for items that are tricky to find without plastic packaging!
Striving to reduce waste is one of the fastest, most affordable, and effective ways we all can live more in balance with our one planet. Before we recycle or compost, reducing our waste overall is key.
One of the most harmful waste products we generate is plastic. Our use and production of plastics is growing so fast; it’s projected that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in oceans.
Eco-Cycle’s Reduce Your Plastic Use Challenge will empower YOU to be a part of what has become a global movement to reduce our plastics. We focus on one topic each week, and give you individual challenges to carry out.
The important thing is that you are committed to learning more about the issue and are taking action. Focus on what you CAN do, because our collective efforts can make a meaningful difference.
Eco-Cycle is supporting the campaign to ban food-grade polystyrene foam in Colorado. Here’s why we think this is such an important step toward protecting human health and the environment by reducing the astronomical amount of plastic waste that humans have created:
- Polystyrene foam never fully degrades, but breaks down into tiny particles that become another form of microplastics pollution. Something we use for just a few minutes can pollute waterways and threaten wildlife for centuries.
- Polystyrene foam (often mistakenly referred to as Styrofoam) can’t be recycled or composted.
- Polystyrene foam products often end up as litter; in fact, they were among the top 20 plastic items collected at beach cleanups according to a coalition of nonprofits called Better Alternatives Now.
- According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the benzene and styrene used to make polystyrene foam are known and likely carcinogens.
- Because of the detriment to human health and the environment posed by polystyrene foam products, many places have already put bans in place, including New York City, dozens of communities in California and Massachusetts, and the City of Baltimore.
- Several communities in Colorado have considered bans but have not followed through because state law prohibits municipalities from banning plastics.
We’ve known for decades that food-grade polystyrene foam containers are unnecessary and dangerous. What is Colorado waiting for?