The Impact of Plastic on Climate Change

19 Jan , 2019

We all seem to have a thing for plastic. Did you know Americans throw away 35 billion plastic water bottles each year while plastic accounts for around 10 percent of the total waste we generate? This has a ripple effect. 44 percent of all seabird species, 22 percent of cetaceans, all sea turtle species and a growing list of fish species have been documented with plastic in or around their bodies. In samples collected in Lake Erie, 85 percent of the plastic particles were smaller than two-tenths of an inch, and much of that was microscopic. Researchers found 1,500 and 1.7 million of these particles per square mile.

For something that is supposed to be quick and convenient, there is nothing quick or convenient about the complete lifecycle of a plastic object. It spends a mere fraction of its existence actually serving a purpose. And the rest of the time, you’ll find, it is actually a nuisance and threatens the health of the environment, animals, and even people. How so? Read on.

Plastic & Air Pollution

In order to make plastic, you need petroleum and natural gas. Picture this: for the 30 million plastic bags used in the United States per year alone, 12 million barrels of oil is required. And for all of the water bottles manufacturers in the United States each year, roughly 17 million barrels of oil are needed. Not to mention the drilling, transportation, and processing of this oil into plastic materials is an energy-intensive process that involves burning fossil fuels, furthering the effects of climate change. That’s a big impact

Mountains of Plastic Waste

Recycle. Recycle. Recycle. That’s something we need to be doing more of. Sadly, 80 percent of plastic water bottles used in the United States each year end up in a landfill. That’s roughly 38 billion water bottles! Numbers for plastic grocery bags are even worse. Between 0.5 and three percent of plastic bags are recycled, sending an estimated 100 billion plastic bags to landfills in America each year. If it’s not being recycled, all of this plastic has to go somewhere.. The landfill. According to Zero Waste America, there are 3,091 active landfills in the United States. And while landfills are designed to withhold their materials and seclude them from the surrounding environment, landfills end up leaking a variety of nasty pollutants. Leachate, a liquid that forms as materials break down in a landfill, often leaks through the liners of the landfill and can pollute groundwater below. And greenhouse gases like methane are produced from decaying material inside landfills, leaking into the atmosphere and furthering climate change. Plus, plastic has a tendency of finding its way out of landfills … and ends up in local waterways.

Plastic Ocean Pollution

We’ve all been there - walking down the beach and a shiny piece of plastic graces our footprints. Just like our land, our oceans are polluted with plastic. A recent study released last year has scientists estimating that 8.8 million tons of plastic waste ended up in the ocean in 2010. And with plastic use becoming more and more popular for individuals all over the world, it is estimated this figure will increase 10 times over the next decade. Another recent study released by the 5 Gyres Institute estimates that there are currently 5.25 trillion plastic particles in the ocean. Sources of this waste are wide ranging including plastic fishing nets, food and beverage containers, microbeads from personal care items, cosmetics, straws, and bags just to name a few.  

 

1% For the Planet MemberTo make matters worse, we’re only recovering five percent of the plastic we produce. We can do better than this. That’s why Le Lores has partnered with 1% for the Planet. Together we can all make a difference.  

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