This Disturbing Statistic About Plastic Was Just Named Statistic of the Year For All the Wrong Reasons
Britain's Royal Statistical Society has announced its 2018 Statistic of the Year—but there's little reason to celebrate.
The society called attention to the growing problem that plastic presents to the environment with this sobering figure: 90.5% of plastic has never been recycled.
A new effort to reduce pollution has been trending on a national scale. Recently, companies like Starbucks have announced policies intended to reduce the production and use of plastic straws. While the full effect of this policy won't be felt until 2020, Starbucks estimates that the move will eliminate more than 1 billion straws globally, most of which currently end up in landfills.
Last year, a video showing a sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck up its nose went viral. In the aftermath, campaigns like #StopSucking—an effort to free oceans from plastic waste—have gained notable traction. In addition to Starbucks, many local municipalities and communities are likely to follow suit with their own bans. According to CNN, American Airlines will be eliminating plastic straws on its flights, in favor of stir sticks.
We all want to leave a legacy. Whether that takes the form of creative works, breakthrough discoveries, children, or other actions, we all want a way to show we were here. For nearly all of us, though, that legacy will be a literal ton of plastic garbage. Every disposable cup, straw, food wrapper, plastic bag, toy and bottle we use adds up to a lot of trash—9 billion tons of it and counting. The vast majority is still here, and will still be here thousands of years after we are gone. It is our most lasting legacy.
It is a problem of monumental proportions, and a solution is urgently needed. Perhaps science has discovered one. At a recycling plant in Japan in 2016, researchers discovered a microbe that has evolved to eat plastic.
Scientists have acknowledged what parents of young children have known for decades: glitter is an environmental hazard.
If glitter seems to live on for years after a single ill-considered craft project, it’s not your imagination: Modern glitter made from foil and plastics not only sticks to everything due to static electricity, it does not disintegrate and eventually ends up in the world’s oceans.
While extracting samples from a Pakistani landfill site outside of Islamabad, researchers discovered a soil fungus that feeds on plastic.
It is no surprise that landfills around the world contain tons upon tons of plastic. When combined with the oceans’ contents, the number reaches into the billions of tons — and humans continue to produce plastic in factories daily, despite efforts at recycling and creating reusable substances.
When an aerial survey organized by Ocean Cleanup flew over the Pacific Ocean between California and the Hawaiian Islands, the crew was shocked by what they saw. While they’d expected to see some trash – scientists have known for years about rotating gyres of garbage swirling at different spots in the Pacific, pulled there by ocean currents – the quantity was much higher than they’d anticipated. In 2.5 hours, they counted over 1,000 pieces of garbage.