Thanks to Leonardo, The Paris Agreement, March for Science, and a whole bunch of other work being done to stop climate change, you’re probably up to speed on the realities of climate change. Glaciers are melting, seasons are changing, and climate change is happening. So, how does plastic fit into all this? Does plastic affect climate change? The short answer is yes, plastic affects climate change – and not for the good!
How Plastic Affects Climate Change
Plastic is made from oil, and oil extraction is a big contributing factor to climate change. In fact, the oil and gas industry is the second largest contributor of greenhouse gases.
Here are the ways oil and oil production contributes to global warming and climate change:
- Transporting fossil fuels to end be processed and to end destination
- Processing the oil
- Finally, burning the fossil fuels to be used as energy
By keeping oil in the ground (instead of using it for plastic), we can reduce climate change.
Plastic Breaks Down…and Emits Carbon Dioxide
You may have heard that it takes hundreds of years for a piece of plastic to biodegrade. However, this is inaccurate. Plastic never biodegrades; it photodegrades. This means the sun breaks down the plastic into smaller and smaller pieces until it becomes small enough to be food for microorganisms. These microorganisms then make those tiny bits of plastic into carbon dioxide. Plastic affects climate change when this happens.
Single-Use Plastics are the Worst!
All plastic contributes to the problems of global warming, but single-use plastics do it over and over and over again, every single day. By eliminating single-use plastics like single-use straws, bottles, bags and more, you can reduce your plastic footprint and your carbon footprint.
Plastic contributes to climate change…but is also a problem on its own!
So now we know plastic affects climate change, but that’s not all. Some research shows that plastic pollution may in fact be worse than climate change.
We consumer plastic at a very rapid rate. And considering that by most estimates, it takes hundreds of years for plastic to photodegrade, we’re literally swimming in plastic.
- 5 trillion plastic bags a year
- 600 toiletries bottles a year
- 500 million straws a day
- 400 million coffee cups and plastic lids a day
- 1 million plastic bottles a minute
Where is all this plastic going?
About 80% of it goes in landfills while 20% of it inadvertently winds up in the ocean.
Solve Two Problems with One Solution!
The best way to help slow down climate change and the plastic pollution problem is to say no to single-use plastics and avoid other kinds of “temporary” plastics (like shampoo bottles) when you can too.
Where to Start?
It’s a big commitment to try to get plastic out of your life. But you can still start small and make a BIG difference.
- Stop using single-use plastic straws and start using reusable straws – take part in the Skip the Straw movement!
- Carry cloth grocery bags with you to the store; leave them in the trunk of your car at all times to make it easy
- Use a coffee tumbler instead of a paper cup with a plastic lid – your coffee will stay warmer, longer too! An added bonus.
These are three simple steps to help protect the environment and for generations to come!