Plastic Ain’t so Fantastic
It is now believed that there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean. Of that mass, 269,000 tons float on the surface, while some four billion plastic microfibers per square kilometer litter the deep sea. (1)
Shoppers worldwide are using approximately 500 billion single-use plastic bags per year.
This translates to about a million bags every minute across the globe, or 150 bags a year for every person on earth. And the number is rising.
- If you joined them end on end they would circumnavigate the globe 4,200 times.
- 100,000 marine creatures a year die from plastic entanglement and these are the ones found.
- Approximately 1 million sea birds also die from plastic.
- A plastic bag can kill numerous animals because they take so long to disintegrate. An animal that dies from the bag will decompose and the bag will be released, another animal could harmlessly fall victim and once again eat the same bag.
- The floods in Bangladesh in 1988 & 1998 were made more severe because plastic bags clogged drains. The government has now banned plastic bags.
- In Ireland they introduced a 15c plastic bag tax and reduced their usage by 90% in one year. It is now 22 cents.
- The #1 man made thing that sailors see in our ocean are plastic bags.
- There are believed to be 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of ocean.
- There are 5 ocean gyres in the world where plastic gathers due to current circulation. These gyres contain millions of pieces of plastic and our wildlife feed in these grounds.
- It can take anything between 20-1000 years for a plastic bag to break up. I mean break up as they break up into smaller pieces. They don’t break down and those that do, break down into polymers and toxic chemicals.
- It costs US$4,000 to recycle 1 tonne of plastic bags and you get a product that can be sold on the commodities market for US$32. We must stop them because recycling is not viable.
- It takes just 4 family shopping trips to accumulate 60 shopping bags.
- World wide, 13,000-15,000 pieces of plastic are dumped into the ocean every day.
- Every year, 6.4 million tonnes are dumped into the ocean. This is the same as 3,200 kilometres of trucks each loaded with garbage.
- At least two thirds of the world’s fish stocks are suffering from plastic ingestion.
- Ocean acidification is a growing problem
- Scientists have identified 200 areas declared as ‘dead zones’ where no life organisms can now grow.
Below is a graph showing the biggest polluting countries in the world. The top 5 represent approximately 60% of all ocean plastics.
- Australia alone uses 6.9 billion plastic bags a year of which 3.6 billion are plastic shopping bags.
- If you tied 6.9 billion plastic bags together end on end they would travel around the world 42.5 times.
- Australians dump 36,700 tonnes of plastic bags into our landfill every year. That equates to 4,000 bags a minute or 230,000 per hour
- Only 10% of Australians take their plastic bags for recycling
- It costs the Australian government in excess of $4 million to clean up plastic bag litter each year.
- If each Australian family used 1 less plastic bag each week that would be 253 million bags less a year.
- Less than 1% of plastic bags in Australia are reused.
- If you imagine a piece of plastic 1m wide. As a conservative guestimate, a length of this plastic 40km long is produced each day and this is for one brand of toilet paper packaging. For bread you can triple the length (120km long)
Bottled Water Story
More than a billion people around the world do not have access to safe drinking water. Most countries that buy bottled water have the luxury of quality tap water, yet despite this:
- Australians spend more than half a billion dollars a year on bottled water. Australia produced 582.9 million litres of bottled water in 2009-10 (2)
- Producing and delivering a litre of bottled water can emit hundreds of times more greenhouse gases than a litre of tap water.
- In many cases, a litre of bottled water is more expensive than a litre of petrol.
- Australia recycles only 36% of PET plastic drink bottles. Assuming the 582.9 million litres of bottled water produced in 2009-10 is in litre bottles, according to these figures, 373 million of those bottles will end up as waste.
- In South Australia , which has Container Deposit Legislation, the plastic bottle recycling rate is 74%. A 2007 national Newspoll commissioned by Clean Up Australia found that of those polled, 82% support a CDL scheme of 10c on bottles.
- Australia ’s annual use of bottled water generates more than 60,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions – the same amount that 13,000 cars generate over the course of a year.
- Approximately 15,253.79 tonnes of PET (3) was used in the packaging of bottled water in 2009-10 (4).
- The manufacture of every tonne of PET produces around 3 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2). In Australia , bottling water has thus created more than 45.7 thousand tonnes of CO2 (5) in 2009-10, excluding the significant amounts of CO2 produced in the transportation and refrigeration of bottled water.
- Approximately 52.5 million litres of oil was used in 2009-10 to produce the PET used to package bottled water in Australia , excluding the energy used in transportation and refrigeration (6).
- More energy is used to fill the bottles, move them by truck, train, ship, or air, refrigerate them and recover, recycle or discard the empty bottles. The Pacific Institute estimates that the total amount of energy embedded in the use of bottled water can be as high as the equivalent of filling a plastic bottle one quarter full with oil. Therefore, more than 145.7 million litres of oil was used in the production, transportation, refrigeration and recycling/disposing of bottled water in Australia in 2009-10.
Prevention is better than a cure.Sources
- IBISWorld Bottled Water Manufacturing in Australia, January 20102. West, D. Container Deposits: The Common Sense Approach v2.1, Boomerang Alliance, February 2007
- This figure and the figures in the following three points are based on available Australian data on industry production and extrapolated using figures developed by The Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security. The extrapolations presented here should be read as an indicative guide to the environmental impacts of bottled water.
- According to The Pacific Institute, 816,466 metric tonnes of plastic is produced for 31.2 billion litres of water in the US. This is 0.000026168791 tonnes of plastic per litre. Applying this metric to bottled water production in Australia, 15,253.79 tonnes of PET was used in packaging of bottled water in Australia in 2009-10.
- The Pacific Institute cites plastics manufacturing industry data saying it takes around 3.4 megajoules of energy to make a typical one litre plastic bottle, cap and packaging. In 2009-10 bottled water production in Australia was 582.9 million litres1. Making enough plastic to bottle 582.9 million litres of water required more than 1.982 billion megajoules of energy. A barrel of oil contains around 6,000 megajoules, and is equivalent to 159 litres of oil. Applying The Pacific Institute metric, Do Something! estimates that the production of PET for bottled water in Australia accounts for 330,310 barrels of oil or 52.5 million litres of oil