Around 100 million tonnes of plastic is produced around the world annually, and from the beginning to the end of its life (which can be 400 years), every piece of plastic creates greenhouse emissions, which as we all know by now, are dramatically contributing to the warming of our planet.
Plastic is made from materials which require fossil fuels - mainly oil and gas - so extracting and transporting these fuels generates greenhouse gases, as does plastic refining and manufacture.
According to a report by the Center for International Environmental Law, if plastic production and use grow as currently anticipated, by 2030, emissions could reach 1.34 gigatons per year - equivalent to the emissions released by more than 295 500-megawatt coal power plants. By 2050, it is expected that plastic production will have tripled, which means it will consume up to 13% of the earth’s carbon budget.
Equally troubling, Ms Major says, is the way the plastic waste is managed, with Australia discarding 95% of its plastic after single use. Less than 12% is recycled, with the remainder going to landfill or or being incinerated.
The incineration and production of plastic will produce more than 850 million tonnes of greenhouse gases this year, and by 2050, it could be 2.8 billion tonnes.
Our seas and the life they hold are literally being smothered by plastic, with 8 million tonnes of plastic waste polluting our oceans each year, a figure expected to double by 2030.
Not only is the plastic choking marine animals and their habitats, but because it takes so long to break down, sunlight and heat cause it to release greenhouse gases, creating a damaging cycle. When the plastic does break down, particles known as microplastics are ingested by marine animals including plankton, which are crucial in absorbing carbon dioxide.
Five ways to reduce your plastic use
On a global scale, the WWF says we need to curb the production of plastic and ramp up recycling - and start to imagine a future without it.
As individuals though, there are a number of ways we can tackle the problem and reduce our use of plastics.
Here are some ideas to make your life a little less filled with plastic...
1. Choose paper picnic ware over plastic. For disposable cutlery, try bamboo.
2. Buy reusable drinking straws.
3. Get a reusable water bottle made from glass or stainless steel and a coffee cup.
4. Recycle as much of your household waste as possible.
5. At the supermarket, try to choose products that are not wrapped in plastic, for example, toilet paper wrapped in paper or loose fruit and vegetables.
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