In today's society, our lives are inundated with single-use plastics and convenience is the name of the game. To intentionally live a lower-waste lifestyle takes some extra effort, and a little more of our time. So why do we do it?
Here are 10 eye-opening facts about our planet and our waste as a species to help answer the question "Why Zero Waste?":
1. The global beauty industry creates 120 billion units of packaging each year.
The cosmetics, beauty and personal care are responsible for creating an excess of plastic, cellophane, cardboard and paper waste.
As you've probably noticed when shopping in the store, most of these products have more packaging than is necessary. Choose low-waste or zero waste alternatives instead.
2. Over half the world's plastic thrown out is from packaging - over 146 million metric tons each year.
Packaging is the number one contributor to plastic pollution in the world. This is why it is so important to buy in bulk when possible, and to use your spending power as a consumer on companies that use minimal (preferably compostable) packaging for their products.
3. Only 9% of all the plastic waste on Earth has been recycled.
Of the 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic that have been produced (2018 figure), 6.3 billion metric tons have become plastic waste. The vast majority of the plastic on our planet is accumulating in landfills or sloughing off into the natural environment and oceans.
4. Plastic can only be recycled a limited number of times. In the end it all becomes waste.
Most plastics can only be recycled once or twice because they do not have the same durability as other materials, such as aluminum or glass, which can be recycled an infinite number of times.
We can't count on recycling to be the solution to our plastic pollution problem, because even if the plastic is recycled, it's usually a one-and-done situation. In the end it all becomes waste which pollutes our planet.
5. After disposal, plastic products take up to 500 years to break down - if at all.
Photo via World Wildlife Fund.
Even though these plastic products eventually break down, they never go away completely. They break down into smaller and smaller pieces of micro plastics which harm our wildlife, and ourselves. They may also release toxic chemicals into the environment as they break down.
6. The production of cardboard that envelopes perfumes, serums and moisturizers causes the loss of 18 millions acres of forest each year.
7. By 2050, the plastic industry may account for 50% of the world's total oil consumption if plastic production continues as is.
Petrochemicals that are derived from oil form the building blocks for plastic products, the demand for which is still growing today.
As we know, the high consumption of fossil fuels is causing considerable harm to our planet. Choose products without plastic as much as possible.
8. By the year 2050 our oceans will have more plastic than fish.
There are already about 165 million tons of plastic in the ocean. A report from the MacArthur foundation projects that the oceans will contain at least 937 millions tons of plastic and 895 million tons of fish by 2050.
9. By 2050, an estimated 99% of all seabirds will have ingested plastic if plastic productions continues as is.
Seabirds can mistake plastic floating on the water as food, which can cause injury or death.
10. Humans consume anywhere from 39,000 to 52,000 micro plastic particles a year.
Micro plastics are abundant in air, water, and common foods. They found in many species intended for human consumption including invertebrates, crustaceans, and fish. It is unclear how they affect our health.
These 10 facts are just a handful of the many ways in which the plastic pollution problem is harming our planet, wildlife, and ourselves. Now that we know these facts, what do we do about it?
Our advice is to start at home with your own household waste. We may not be able to control what everyone else on the planet does, but we can control our own choices. There are tons of great free resources and advice out there to help you reduce your waste. We've created a free resource with simple & concrete steps to help you reduce waste in your life.
Download our free Guide to Zero Waste E-book to help you on your way!
After you've tackled your own household waste, we urge you to support and advocate for policy changes in your city, county, state and/or country that limit single-use plastics at restaurants, grocery stores, and more.
We also invite you to share this blog post, or other information about the need for a lower-waste lifestyle with your friends and family, because: