17 Shocking Facts about Plastic - Zero Waste Nest

17 Shocking Facts About Plastic

Need a couple more motivations to break free from plastic? Here are 17 new reasons to do so.

Warning: these facts are here to complement your argumentation with Aunt Lucy who still doesn’t believe we’re in the middle of a plastic crisis — clearly not to cheer you up.

  • Only 9% of the plastic ever created has been recycled.1
  • By 2050, the ocean is expected to contain more plastics than fish.
    In a business-as-usual scenario, the ocean is expected to contain 1 tonne of plastic for every 3 tonnes of fish by 2025,
    and by 2050, more plastics than fish (by weight). 2
  • Although the first synthetic plastics such as Bakelite appeared in the early 20th century, widespread use of plastics outside of the military did not occur until after World War II;
  • It is estimated that a minimum of 5.25 trillion particles of plastic (weighing 268,940 tons) are currently in the Ocean.3
  • 75% of all plastic ever produced is already waste.4
  • We produce 200 times more plastic now than we did in 1950.5
  • In 2015, we produced 381 million tonnes of plastic6
    For context, this is roughly equivalent to the mass of two-thirds of the world population.7
  • It is estimated that a minimum of a 1000 marine turtles die every year due to entanglement in
    plastic waste, which includes lost or discarded fishing gear.8
  • More than 240 different animal species ingest plastic. 9 These animals are often unable to pass the plastic through their digestive systems, resulting in internal abrasions, digestive blockages, and death.
  • A recent study of bottled water found microplastic contamination in 93% of water bottles, sourced from 11 different brands across nine countries.10
  • 40% of plastic is single-use. 11
  • In 2017, China made the decision to enforce a significantly higher purity standard on plastic waste imports to improve performance of the country’s waste management system. South East Asian countries picked up a larger share of the remaining plastic waste exports. Recycling workers in Bangladesh, one of the world’s poorest countries, make recycling of plastics in primitive working conditions and are paid $2 per day. Even child labourers work under these conditions and risk their lives. 12
  • Coca Cola produces 88 billions plastic bottles per year.13. If we put all those bottles on top of each other, it would cover the distance between the earth and the moon 62 times. That is 167 000 plastic bottles produced per minute.
  • We estimate that 8.3 billions of plastic has been produced to date.14
  • 42% of plastic is created for packaging.15 (that’s 146 million tonnes16 per year)
  • By 2050, 99% of seabirds will ingest plastic.17


👉🏽Just starting out your low waste journey? Here are 5 Tips for Zero Waste Newbies. Need help getting rid of waste in your bathroom? Here are 8 Zero Waste(ish) Beauty Brands, and 14 Zero Waste(ish) Make Up brands.

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Cover image: Daniel Chekalov — thank you.


1, 14, 15, 16 Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever madeRoland Geyer, Jenna R. Jambeck and Kara Lavender Law, 2017
2 The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics.World Economic Forum, January 2016
3 Plastic Pollution in the World’s Oceans: More than 5 Trillion Plastic Pieces Weighing over 250,000 Tons Afloat at Sea — Marcus Eriksen, Laurent C. M. Lebreton, Henry S. Carson, Martin Thiel, Charles J. Moore,Jose C. Borerro, Francois Galgani, Peter G. Ryan, Julia Reisser, 2014
4, 5, 6, 11, 12 WWF Report 2019 (Solving plastic pollution through accountability)Dalberg, 2019
7 This is assuming a mass of 75 kg per person [(381,000,000*1,000kg)/75kg per person=5,080,000,000 people.
8 A Global Review of Marine Turtle Entanglement in Anthropogenic Debris: A Baseline for Further Action — EM Duncan, 2017
9 Marine Debris: Understanding, Preventing
and Mitigating the Significant Adverse Impacts on Marine and Coastal Biodiversity. —  Secretariat of the
Convention on Biological Diversity, 2016”
10 Synthetic Polymer Contamination in Bottled Water, Sherri A. Mason, Victoria G. Welch, and Joseph Neratko, 2018
13 Allein Coca Cola produziert 3. Mio. Tonnen PlastikmüllMathias Brandt, 2019
17 Plastic in 99 percent of seabirds by 2050CSIRO Australia, 2015