The Complicated Relationship of Plastic and Climate Change

When we first think about plastic, what usually comes to mind is where they end up after disposal. We know that many of our plastic pollutions, especially single-use plastic, end up in our oceans, waterways, and landfills. The way plastic makes almost everything convenient for us subsequently poses a danger to our marine life and clogs our landfills. But do you know about its genesis? 

Plastic and Climate Change

Scientists project that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fishes in our seas. Plastic is genuinely one of the most persistent pollutants present in different ecosystems, and they would live longer than any of us. Most single-use plastic lasts for 400 years or more. At the beginning of its “life,” plastic creates greenhouse gas emissions that harm our atmosphere and contribute to global warming. They continue to emit more once they are exposed to sunlight and heat for a long period of time.

According to this article by WWF Australia, “almost all plastic is derived from materials (like ethylene and propylene) made from fossil fuels (mostly oil and gas).” There are billions of tonnes of greenhouse gasses released in our atmosphere when we extract fossil fuels and manufacture different kinds of plastics. 

The problem doesn’t end there. In its lifetime, plastic enters different ecosystems. Our relationship with plastic causes an extra level of harm to our environment. Let me share with you some of these facts according to

  • Over 300 million tons of plastic are produced every year. 
  • The world uses 500 billion single-use plastic bags every year.
  • A plastic bag is used for only 15 minutes on average but can last for a millennium.
  • 91% of all the plastic ever created has not been recycled.
  • Among the grimmest plastic pollution facts of 2019 is that no beach on the planet today is free of plastic trash
  • By 2050, landfill plastic waste will be 35,000x as heavy as the Empire State Building.

What can we do?

There has to be a systemic change in curbing plastic production and recycling plastic waste globally. We must proactively appeal to our government leaders to stop greenhouse gas emissions exacerbating climate change in all sectors. At a local level, reducing our plastic use and practicing a more sustainable lifestyle are some of the things we can collectively do to slow down the effects of climate change. Here in Barrel Bag, we offer eco-friendly and sustainable cleanup bags made from fabric made of recycled plastic. We also hold virtual cleanups during the pandemic to avoid plastic accumulation in our oceans, waterways, and even just in our neighborhood. We must continue educating ourselves on the effects of our current behaviors and reevaluate the practices that we do that brought us here in the first place.