My Plastic Waste ‘Tis of Thee

USA #1 in plastics

This 4th of July, we want to talk about a long-brewing disaster that’s gaining traction in the mainstream: Plastic! United States citizens are the largest plastic waste producers on earth, trashing about 286 pounds of plastic each year. Only about 5% of that gets recycled, so we’re not doing our best, despite the fact that we are supposed to believe we’re the best. Tired of winning? Check out some of our favorite tidbits about plastic waste from University of Michigan’s Center for Sustainable Systems that will make you wish we had declared independence from petrochemicals. 

  • Global plastic use is estimated to roughly triple in the next 40 years, increasing from 460 million metric tons in 2019 to 1,231 metric tons in 2060.
  • North America represents 19% of global plastics production and 21% of consumption. (For context, the US is just over 4% of the global population.)
  • About 60% of plastics ever made have ended up as trash (landfill) or litter.
  • Light vehicles in North America are about 8.6% plastic these days, but the plastic that goes into them almost always ends up in a landfill, due to the difficulty of separating the plastic from the other materials once the car’s useful life is over.
  • Making plastic accounts for about 8% of global annual oil and gas consumption.
  • If we keep doing what we’re doing, by 2050, the weight of all plastic in the ocean will be greater than the weight of all fish in the ocean.
  • Bottle deposits help to increase recycling rates. In 2018, bottle deposit states had a PET plastic bottle recycling rate of 62% compared to states without deposit systems at 13%.
  • If we institute policies for a circular economy that closes plastics loops, by 2040, we could see an 80% reduction in new ocean plastics, a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, savings of $200 billion per year, and 700,000 new jobs.

Which one is your favorite? We can’t get enough fun facts about plastic! It’s just so… eternal. Microplastics are ushering in a new era of questions about plastic and its effects on our bodies, so stay tuned for more strategies for understanding and dealing with microplastics. Apparently, donating blood won’t remove microplastics from your blood, but it can reduce your PFAS levels, which feels like a win. Get out there and donate blood to celebrate your freedoms and transfer some of your PFASs to a deserving fellow American! God bless us, every one.

Is this flag 100% plastic? Either way, I’m sure we will meet our usual numbers. We’re #1! We’re #1! We’re #1!

About the Author

Writer, editor, and professional joker with an environmental science background. Like most trivia nerds, she's an ardent admirer of Only Connect competitors, but more at home on the QI field.

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