Infographic: Where does all the plastic end up

Have you ever wondered where all the plastic ends up after we’ve consumed it? Maybe you think that the bottles you recycle every week become new plastic bottles? Or that all the plastic found in the oceans were thrown in there by someone?

We went on a mission to find out the truth.

What we found was worse than we could have ever imagined.

Here’s an overview of the Top 10 Facts of where all the plastic ends up. We hope it helps you and others wake up to the reality and help so something about it.

Infographic: Where does all the plastic end up

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Text for infographic including source links

1. Plastic bottles produced

Approx 500bn plastic drinking bottles were sold in 2017 across the world
Source: Euromonitor International’s global packaging trends report 2018
. “1 Million plastic bottles bought every minute, that’s nearly 20,000 every second.”
Source: EcoWatch, Lorraine Chow (June 29, 2017)

Americans used about 50 billion plastic water bottles last year. However, the U.S.’s recycling rate for plastic is only 23 percent, which means 38 billion water bottles – more than $1 billion worth of plastic – are wasted each year.


2. Plastic collected for recycling

Fewer than half of the bottles bought in 2016 were collected for recycling and just 9% of those collected were turned into new bottles.
Source: Laville, S., and Taylor, M. (June 28, 2017). “A million bottles a minute: world’s plastic binge ‘as dangeours as climate change.” The Guardian

Only 9% of bottles get recycled:
Source link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2017/07/26/million-plastic-bottles-minute-91-not-recycled/#3199f23a292c

Source link 2:

3. Plastic ending up on landfills

The vast majority—79 percent—is accumulating in landfills or sloughing off in the natural environment as litter. Meaning: at some point, much of it ends up in the oceans, the final sink.

4. Plastic burned

In a “green country” such as Sweden up to 75% of collected plastic waste gets incinerated for energy rather than recycled.
Source: Sopor.nu (Swedish only)

Plastics burned in incinerators set up to generate only electricity create heat at 25% efficiency.
Source: The consultancy Eunomia

5. Plastic ending up in the oceans

Between 5m and 13m tonnes of plastic leaks into the world’s oceans each year to be ingested by sea birds, fish and other organisms
Source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation 2018

6. Plastic exported to other countries (US stats)

USA exported over 1000 million lbs of plastic waste to countries without proper waste management such as India, Philippines and Thailand and then blaming them for polluting the oceans.

Source: https://resource-recycling.com/recycling/2018/11/06/third-quarter-brings-plastic-strife-but-occ-movement/

7. Plastic found in fish and other sea animals

A study by Plymouth University found that one-third of all fish caught in the UK contained tiny pieces of plastic.

8. Plastic found in humans

A recent study by Ghent University in Belgium, for example, found that people who regularly eat seafood ingest up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic each year. More than 50% of the world population might have microplastics in their stools with 200 particles of microplastic found in each 100g of excreta.
Source: Environment Agency Austria conducted the tests using a new procedure in 2018

9. Plastic ending up in tap water and bottles

93% of tap water and 94% of bottled water tested contains microplastics
Source: OrbMedia research 2017-2018

10. Plastic recycled for bottle production

Coca Cola sources only 7% of its plastic from recycled material, while Nestle uses just 6% recycled content.

Source: Tapp Water research 2018

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