Plastic is inexpensive and durable and that’s part of the problem. We are using huge amounts of it and it is very slow to degrade.
The plastic industry is the second largest and fastest growing source of industrial greenhouse gas emissions. 99% of the constituent ingredients of plastics are derived from fossil fuels. Cheap shale gas is burnt at 1000 degrees during production of plastic, releasing carbon dioxide.
The manufacturing processes require huge amounts of energy. The Grangemouth plastic plant, which produces approximately a third of the UK’s plastic, uses the same amount of electricity as three cities.
If plastic production continues to grow at the same rate it will account for 15% of all greenhouse emissions by 2050.
Green Fact: In the UK we use more than 5 million tons of plastic a year with only 25% ultimately recycled.
Green Fact: The UK buys 38.5 million single-use plastic water bottles every day.
Recycling plastic is not the solution to our ‘plastic habit’. The recycling process itself requires more energy and degrades the quality of the plastics, so most are only reprocessed once before going to general waste. ‘Down-cycling’ is a more accurate description of what happens. The amount of plastic we are producing already exceeds our capacity to recycle it and the recycling process is compounded by the need to separate different types of plastics.
At the end of its life plastic doesn’t degrade, and if it isn’t disposed of properly it breaks into fragments which find their way into the natural environment and watercourses, where they can be ingested by animals and then enter the food chain. For more information on plastic pollution visit:
Green Fact: The average person eats 70,000 microplastics each year.