Petroleum-based plastics pollute the Earth on a massive scale
- They are manufactured from 20 petroleum-based resins with different levels of recyclability and toxicity
- Plastic can only be recycled if it is clean and has being properly sorted by resin type
- The sorting is often inaccurate and or requires advanced equipment
- Only 9% of plastic waste is actually recovered for recycling
- The remaining 91% of discarded plastic (over 30 million tons each year in the U.S. alone) is sent to landfills or incinerated (Source)
Plastics do not disappear from our environment when they are sent to landfills and incinerators. Plastics frequently get blown or washed from landfills. Smoke, particulate matter, and ash escape from incinerators. This air and water pollution is in addition to the pollution and toxins that plastics contribute directly as litter. A 2009 study by Keep America Beautiful, Inc. found that 19.3% of roadside waste was plastic, resulting in an average of 1,300 pieces of plastic litter beside every mile of roadway throughout the United States (Source).
Plastic litter does not remain on roadsides. Instead, it travels on currents of air and water for thousands of miles and generally ends these journeys as ocean pollution. The vast majority of the ocean’s litter begins on land (80%). Moreover, most of the ocean’s litter (60-80%) is plastic (Source).
Learn more about the specific issues with plastics, and the damage that they cause