Published: Feb. 25, 2021 By

Single-use plastics are becoming increasingly prevalent across the world. These plastics most obviously create eyesores and pose a threat to the natural ecosystems they make their way into. However, these plastics are also a driving force behind climate change.

What is Single-Use Plastic?

  • Single-use plastics are pieces of plastic that are made to be thrown out.

  • These plastics prioritize convenience over durability and repeated use, making them a prime culprit behind our throw-away society.

  • Worldwide over 300 million tons of plastic is produced every single year, half of this is single-use plastics.

  • Plastics do not fully decompose and instead just continually break down into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics. These microplastics pose a huge risk to wildlife and are extremely difficult to clean up.

  • Examples of single-use plastic include water and soda bottles, plastic grocery bags, product packaging, straws, coffee cups, and single-use plastic baggies.

What is Plastic Made of?

  • Plastic is derived from the fossil fuels natural gas and crude oil

  • Plastic also contains chemicals that are known endocrine disruptors and pose a threat to human health.

  • Human exposure to plastics with these chemicals can cause hormonal imbalances, reproductive problems, and even cancer.

How is Single-Use Plastic Production Contributing to Climate Change?

  • Because single-use plastic is produced from fossil fuels, the process of extracting and creating these plastics emits huge amounts of greenhouse gases.

  • It is estimated that just the extraction of these fossil fuels and their transportation to plastic factories emits 12.5 to 1.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases.

  • The removal of forested land for oil extraction and pipeline construction has also resulted in over 1.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere. This land clearing also limits the amount of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere.

  • The refinement of plastics emits an additional 184 to 213 million metric tons of greenhouse gases each year. 

  • Landfills, where thrown out single-use plastics are sent, account for over 15% of methane emissions. The disposal of more plastics to landfills leads to increases in landfill size and these emissions.

What you can do!

The best way to reduce the impact of single-use plastics on climate change is to stop using this type of plastic. This task can seem quite difficult in a world full of plastic packaging. However, even just small changes can have a large impact. Here are some things to do to limit your single-use plastic waste:

  • Use a reusable water bottle

  • Bring a reusable bag to the store

  • Avoid overly packaged items at the grocery store such as pre-cut fruits and vegetables

  • Grocery shop at a bulk foods store

  • Repurpose old bottles or containers

  • Reduce your waste through various methods like Voting with Your Dollar!