Plastics are undeniably a key environmental concern — particularly in terms of impacts to ocean health and wildlife. But it’s also important to acknowledge the value plastic plays across many aspects of society. It is a unique material: often lightweight, resilient, usually non-reactive, waterproof and cheap. For most of us, it has an almost constant place in our lives. Even those who try to minimise or cut plastic from their lives are likely to come into contact with it every day.
With the equivalent of a garbage truck's worth of plastic waste being dumped into the ocean every minute, it's time to drastically change our plastic habits for the health of the oceans and all those who depend on it.
It is the management of plastic waste that determines the risk of plastic entering the ocean. Poor waste management across many coastal cities means that these are the main sources of global ocean plastic pollution
Annual global production of plastics has increased more than 200-fold since 1950.
In 2015 the world produced more than 380 million tonnes of plastic.
By 2019 cumulative plastic production was more than 8.5 billion tonnes.
THE FATE OF PLASTIC
Of the global plastic produced over the period from 1950 to 2015:
55% straight to landfill
30% was still in use
8% was incinerated
6-7% was recycled
Of 5.8 billion tonnes of plastic no longer in use, ~9% was recycled.
SPILLING inTO THE OCEANS
Plastic waste most at risk of entering the oceans is generated in coastal populations (within 50 kilometres of the coastline); this was 99.5 million tonnes;
8 million tonnes – 3% of global annual plastics waste – entered the ocean.
Plastics pollution has a direct and deadly effect on wildlife and coastal habitats. Thousands of seabirds and sea turtles, seals and other marine mammals are killed each year after ingesting plastic or getting entangled in it.
From getting stuck in nets to eating plastic that they think is food, creatures worldwide are dying from material we made, use and improperly dispose.