Single-use plastics are used only once before they are recycled – or more likely – simply thrown away. These are things like plastic bags, straws, coffee stirrers, soda and water bottles, and most food packaging. They are primarily made from fossil fuel-based chemicals.
Since the 1950s, over 9 billion tons of plastics have been produced, and half of that has been in the past 15 years. There are uses for plastic that are not only reasonable, but are even important, such as for surgical gloves. But for the most part, single-use plastic is the poster child of our throwaway culture that is bad for the environment, for wildlife, and even for human health.
Many cities, states, and even countries are moving toward greatly limiting or outright banning single-use plastics. A recent global survey indicates that the great majority of people around the world are with the program.
According to a 28-country survey from marketing firm Ipsos and the activist group Plastic Free July, three out of four people around the world agree with a ban on single-use plastics. The poll of more than 20,000 people showed that in Latin America, China, and India, more than 80% agree that a ban should happen as soon as possible. Unfortunately, Canada, the United States, and Japan were the least supportive countries. In particular, only 40% of Japanese respondents favored a ban.
Ninety percent of respondents globally support an international treaty to combat plastic pollution and eighty percent said they personally want to buy products with as little plastic packaging as possible. Unfortunately, people in wealthy countries, which produce the most plastic waste, are less likely to support a ban. Those countries typically export their waste to the developing world.
Photo, posted April 13, 2006, courtesy of Leonard J Matthews via Flickr.