The Problems with Plastic
Environmental & Social Issues

The Problems with Plastic

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 8% 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).

What are some things you can do to reduce plastic pollution

  • Say no to plastic water bottles and other single-use plastics. Use a reusable water bottle and bring your own containers for takeout
  • Avoid buying items packaged or wrapped in plastic, opt for reusable or recyclable glass or metal containers
  • Bring your own bags to the store for groceries
  • Buy a set of reusable cutlery to keep in your car or bag instead of using plastic

Learn more about the specific issues with plastics, and the damage that they cause


Written by

World Centric


Read time

3 minutes


Published on

May 8, 2019


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