Environment Magazine

40+ Intriguing Facts About Plastic Pollution

Posted on the 27 February 2017 by Rinkesh @ThinkDevGrow

Just as we cannot escape plastic in our lives so is plastic pollution. Almost everything that we come into contact with is plastic from tea cups, computer mouse, mobile phones and plastic framed computer monitor among others. And this does not end there as we come into contact with plastic almost everywhere.

Plastic is like an epidemic and each person can relate to it. However, the big question is, “where does all this plastic go?” While some is recycled, some thrown into landfills and some is thrown loosely into the streets or our immediate environment, the loosely disposed plastic usually ends up into our waterways. Most of this plastic is found floating in the ocean waters most especially in Indian Ocean where a lot of plastic is disposed in its waters.

Tiny plastic beads have equally been found in several toiletries such as toothpastes and scrubs. Plastic does not just adversely impact the earth. Instead, it also affects people’s health. What’s more, plastic does not degrade instead it breaks down. Below are 40+ intriguing facts about plastic pollution.


  1. There is high plastic pollution in the world. Over the last decade, human beings have produced a lot of plastic as compared to the whole period of the last century.
  1. Each and every day there are plastic that are swept into Pacific Ocean. Several plastic materials are swept into Pacific Ocean. For example in Los Angeles area in the US, around 10 metric tons of plastic fragments such as soda bottles, straws and grocery bags are thrown into the Pacific Ocean.
  1. Around 50% of the plastic that people use are used only once. They are then they thrown away as waste.
  1. The amount of plastic that is thrown away annually can circle the earth four times. The plastic thrown away is so much so that there is need to ban it.
  1. Currently we can only recover around 5% of the plastic bags that we produce. Most of the plastic bags once used are thrown into as waste instead of being collected and recycled for later use. Very few plastic bags are recycled which is not healthy for our environment and human health in the long run.
  1. An American throws away around 185 pounds of plastic each year. An average American throws away so much plastic bags which weigh hundreds of pounds.
  1. Humans generate a lot of waste and plastic accounts for approximately 10% of the total waste. Human beings generate waste such as kitchen waste among other wastes. All these waste if not most of it is thrown into landfills, on our surrounding areas, or in the water bodies. While some of its may slowly degrade, plastic will never degrade.
  1. The Americans throw away around 35 billion plastic water bottles annually. Bottled water is ready made, portable and easily accessible hence most Americans opt for it. However, these bottles are not reused by people; they look for new ones once they are done. Subsequently, the amount of bottles that is thrown away by Americans is great which is worrying.
  1. The body can absorb plastic chemicals. Approximately 93% of Americans who are age 6 and above have tested positive for BPA.
  1. There are some compounds found in plastic which can alter hormones or even have some potential human health effects. PBC is one such chemical which significantly alters an individual’s hormones thus resulting in some negative health effects.
  1. About 97% of plastics ever made still exist. Apart from the small amount of plastic that is incinerated, every other piece of plastic ever made continues to exist in some form or shape.
  1. There are numerous microscopic particles of plastic that we consume unknowingly. There were samples which were collected from Lake Erie and 85% of those plastic particles were smaller found to be smaller than two-tenths of an inch and a lot of this was microscopic. In fact, the researchers found 1,500 and 1.7 million of the above particles per square mile.
  1. There are so many ocean animals which are killed every year from plastic. Around one million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed each year due to plastic ingestion.
  1. There is so much plastic trash which is left floating on the ocean’s surface. Plastic accounts for around 90% of all ocean trash with 46,000 pieces of plastic for each square mile.
  1. Plastic does not degrade easily. It takes around 500-1,000 years for plastic to degrade. Plastic only breaks into very small tiny pieces but does not degrade thus polluting the environment.
  1. Over a million bags of plastics are used annually across the globe. In a year, around 500 billion plastic bags are used globally.
  1. Currently, Americans generate 10.5 million tons of plastic waste annually. However, they recycle only 1 to 2% of this amount.
  1. Globally, the fishing industry dumps around 150,000 tons of plastic into the ocean annually. This does not include plastic nets, buoys, lines and packaging among others.
  1. A lot of energy is saved, around twice, through recycling of waste as compared to burning the plastic in an incinerator.
  1. US law which implements an international agreement known as MARPOL Annex V, took effect in 31st December 1988. This law prohibits disposing off plastic into the marine environment and requires that ports provide reception facilities for ship-generated plastic waste.
  1. In the swirling convergences within the oceans, there are billions of pounds of plastic and they make up around 40% of the worlds ocean surfaces. Around 80% of the plastic pollution enters the ocean from the land.
  1. Plastic in the oceans is believed to break down into very small segments. Each of these pieces of plastic from a one liter bottle could spread to each and every mile of beach all through the world.
  1. 22% of cetaceans, 44% of all seabird species, all sea turtle and still growing list of fishes have been documented to have plastic in or even around their bodies.
  1. There are countries that have already banned or even restricted the use of plastic bags. Examples include China, Australia, Ireland and Bangladesh among other nations. However, Bangladesh and India have only banned those of over 5 microns.


  1. Along the South African coast, there are 3,500 plastic particles for every square kilometer.
  1. The annual consumption of plastic globally has increased from 5 million tons in the 50s to around 100 million tons currently.
  1. Each and every US resident uses 1,200 plastic bags a year.
  1. 72 billion gallons of water is required annually to make plastic bottles.
  1. Around 24 million gallons of oil is required to produce one billion plastic bottles.
  1. In the ocean, there are 48 particles of plastic for each particle of plankton.
  1. In the US, approximately four out of five groceries bags used by the public is plastic.
  1. Each and every year, the US processes about 100 billion plastic bags. This takes around 12 million barrels of oil. It clearly shows that a lot of petroleum oil is required to manufacture these plastic materials.
  1. Around 80% of marine plastic pollution comes from the land. The plastic materials that are dumped into the oceans come from the land and they include aspects such as plastic bags, plastic cups and other plastic household materials. Along the shores of the coastline, one tends to find plastic bottles, polythene bags, plastic cups among other objects. All these come from the land.
  1. Most of marine plastic debris concentrates in different regions of the North Pacific. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a vast gyre of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean off the coast of California and is considered as the largest ocean garbage site in the entire face of earth. It is stated that this floating mass of plastic is almost twice the size of Texas. Additionally, the plastic pieces outnumber the sea life in like six to one.
  1. According to a research done by Ellen MacArthur Foundation in January, the total amount of plastic waste will be greater than the total number of fish found in our oceans by 2050. Further, this amount is predicted to increase ten times by 2020.
  1. A plastic cup takes around 50-80 years to decompose. A plastic cup has the non-renewable materials which are its basic components. This material does not degrade which is why plastic cups continue to exist up to now.
  1. Most or all of the recycled plastic can be used to make things such as park benches, trash cans, decks, playground equipment and kayaks among others.
  1. Recycled plastic bottles can also be used to make special fleece-like fabrics which are used in blankets and clothes.
  1. A plastic like a jug which takes 1 million years to decompose.
  1. Around 1,200 plastic soft drink and salad dressing containers are able to cover an average living room.
  1. According to EPA (2006), 46% of plastics are afloat on the world’s oceans and can drift for several years before later concentrating in the ocean gyres.


Lytle, Claire L. G. (2016). When the Mermaids Cry: The Great Plastic Tide. Updated April
2016. Retrieved from http://plastic-pollution.org/
Law, K. L., Moret-Ferguson, S., Maximenko, N. A., Proskurowski, G., Peacock, E. E.,
Hafner, J., & Reddy, C. M. (2010). Plastic accumulation in the North Atlantic subtropical gyre. Science, 329(59996), 1185-1188.

Image credit: meijer , kauko

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