16 shocking plastic waste statistics

By Bob Fear

16 shocking plastic waste statistics

We’re bombarded with so many different facts and figures about plastic pollution, it’s hard to take stock of where we are right now. Of course it takes time for official, trustworthy statistics to be researched and published, but we’ve conveniently gathered all of the latest global plastic waste facts we could find, as well as the latest UK numbers. They don’t always make for easy reading.

7 scary global plastic pollution stats

1: The global annual production of plastics doubled from 234 million tonnes in 2000 to 460 million tonnes in 2019

2: The volume of plastic waste has more than doubled, from 156 million tonnes in 2000 to 353 million tonnes in 2019

3: - 9% of all plastic waste is recycled

- 19% is incinerated

- 50% is sent to landfill

- 22% is disposed of in “uncontrolled dumpsites, burned in open pits or leaked into the environment”

4: In 2019, 22 million tonnes of plastic material leaked into the environment

6.1 million tonnes of which was leaked into rivers, lakes and oceans

5: 88% of plastic leakage is macroplastics, of which most comes from “inadequate” collection and disposal

12% is microplastics

6: In 2019, plastics generated 1.8 gigatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, with 90% coming from their production and conversion from fossil fuels

7: In 2020 plastic usage fell by 2.2% from 2019 levels

During the COVID19 pandemic, there was a sharp increase in the use of single-use protective personal equipment that led to a rise in plastic waste.

9 unnerving UK plastic pollution stats

1: In 2020 486,000 tonnes of plastic was recycled in the UK

2: A further 688,000 tonnes of plastic waste was exported out of the UK - we have no control over what happens to it

3: England missed its national recycling target to recycle 50% of household waste by 2020

It stalled at 45% in 2017.

4: In 2020, the UK produced 99kg of plastic waste per person per year. That’s the second highest in the world, after the US, which produces 105kg per person per year. South Korea is third with 88kg per person per year.

5: 87% of people in the UK say they regularly recycle

6: 11% of everything we put out for recycling in England is burned by local authorities and their waste disposal contractors

7: Plastic releases more c02 from incineration than coal

8: 60% of what goes into Britain’s incinerators is recyclable

9: Wales has the 4th best recycling rate in the world, behind Germany, Austria & South Korea



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