Humboldt Chapter

Plastic Facts


Plastic Facts:

  • Plastic is the most common type of marine litter worldwide.
    Derraik, J.G.B. “The pollution of the marine environment by plastic debris: a review.” Marine Pollution Bulletin 44. (2002): 843.
  • The amount of plastic produced from 2000-2010 exceeds the amount produced during the entire last century.
    Thompson, R.C. “Plastics, the environment and human health: current consensus and future trends.”  Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society Biological Sciences. 364.1526 (2009):2153-2166.
  • Plastic bags are problematic in the litter stream because they float easily in the air and water, traveling long distances and never fully breaking down in water. Plastics do not biodegrade, but instead break down into particles that absorb toxins, and enter the food chain through fish, sea birds, and other marine life.
    Williams, Caroline. “Battle of the Bag.” New Scientist. (2004): Print.
  • Americans go through an estimated 100 billion plastic bags a year, or 360 bags for every person (adults and children) in the country.
    Royte, Elizabeth.  Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash. Little, Brown, and Company, 2005.
  • 100 billion plastics bags, if tied together, would go around the earth’s equator 776 times.
    U.S. International Trade Commission.  Polyethylene Retail Carrier Bags from Indonesia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.  Publication 4080. May 2009, pg. IV-7. *Calculation is based on the following: 2008 bag consumption, according to U.S. International Trade Commission = 102,105,637,000.  Earth’s Circumference = 131,480,184 ft. Average bag length = 1ft.

The Garbage Patch:

Plastic pollution has infiltrated our oceans. The system of currents circulates the pollution into concentrated areas, known as gyres, which slowly rotate the water and accumulated trash.

Read more from our friends at 5 Gyres: “The North Pacific Gyre, the most heavily researched for plastic pollution, spans an area roughly twice the size of the United States – though it is a fluid system, shifting seasonally in size and shape. Designed to last, plastic trash in the gyre will remain for decades or longer, being pushed gently in a slow, clockwise spiral towards the center. Most of the research on plastic trash circulating in oceanic gyres has focused on the North Pacific, but there are 5 major oceanic gyres worldwide, with several smaller gyres in Alaska and Antarctica. Marine researchers don’t yet know the extent to which plastic pollution exists in the world’s oceans.”