Plastic never goes away.
Plastic is a durable material made to last forever, yet illogically, 33 percent of it is used once and then thrown away. Plastic cannot biodegrade; it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces.
Plastic spoils our groundwater.
There are thousands of landfills in the United States. Buried beneath each one of them, plastic leachate full of toxic chemicals is seeping into groundwater and flowing downstream into lakes and rivers.
Plastic attracts other pollutants.
Manufacturers' additives in plastics, like flame retardants, BPAs and PVCs, can leach their own toxins. These oily poisons repel water and stick to petroleum-based objects like plastic debris.
Plastic threatens wildlife.
Entanglement, ingestion and habitat disruption all result from plastic ending up in the spaces where animals live. In our oceans alone, plastic debris outweighs zooplankton by a ratio of 36-to-1.
Plastic piles up in the environment.
Americans discard more than 30 million tons of plastic a year. Only 8 percent of that gets recycled. The rest ends up in landfills, is incinerated, or becomes the invasive species known as 'litter.'
Plastic poisons our food chain.
Even plankton, the tiniest creatures in our oceans, are eating microplastics and absorbing their toxins. The substance displaces nutritive algae that creatures up the food chain require.
Plastic affects human health.
Chemicals leached by plastics are in the blood and tissue of nearly all of us. Exposure to them is linked to cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption and other ailments.
Plastic costs billions to abate.
Everything suffers: tourism, recreation, business, the health of humans, animals, fish and birds—because of plastic pollution. The financial damage continuously being inflicted is inestimable.
Plastic never goes away. Disposed plastic materials can remain in the environment for up to 2,000 years and longer. Source: DiGregorio, Barry E. "Biobased Performance Bioplastic: Mirel," Chemistry & Biology (2009)
Plastic piles up in the environment. More than 5 trillion plastic pieces weighing over 250,000 tons afloat at sea. Source: Eriksen, Marcus; Lebreton, Laurent C. M.; Carson, Henry S.; Thiel, Martin; Moore, Charles J.; Borerro, Jose C.; Galgani, Francois; Ryan, Peter G.; Reisser, Julia. "Plastic Pollution in the World's Oceans," PLoS One (10 Dec. 2014)
Plastic spoils our groundwater. There are long-term risks of contamination of soils and groundwater by some additives and breakdown by-products in plastics, which can become persistent organic pollutants. Source: Hopewell, Jefferson; Dvorak, Robert; Kosior, Edward. "Plastics Recycling: Challenges and Opportunities," Biological Sciences (14 June 2009)
Plastic poisons our food chain. Contaminated plastics when ingested by marine species present a credible route by which the POPs can enter the marine food web. Source: Andrady, Anthony L. "Microplastics in the Marine Environment," Marine Pollution Bulletin (2011)
Plastic attracts other pollutants. Fish, exposed to a mixture of polyethylene with chemical pollutants sorbed from the marine environment, bioaccumulate these chemical pollutants and suffer liver toxicity and pathology. Source: Rochman, Chelsea "Ingested Plastic Transfers Hazardous Chemicals to Fish and Induces Hepatic Stress," Scientific Reports (2013)
Plastic affects human health. Two broad classes of plastic-related chemicals are of critical concern for human health—bisphenol-A or BPA, and additives used in the synthesis of plastics, which are known as phthalates. Source: "Perils of Plastics: Risks to Human Health and the Environment," Arizona State University Biodesign Institute (18 March 2010)
Plastic threatens wildlife. Over 260 species, including invertebrates, turtles, fish, seabirds and mammals, have been reported to ingest or become entangled in plastic debris, resulting in impaired movement and feeding, reduced reproductive output, lacerations, ulcers and death. Source: Thompson, Richard C.; Moore, Charles J.; vom Saal, Frederick S.; Swan, Shanna H. "Plastics, the Environment and Human Health: Current Consensus and Future Trends," Biological Sciences (14 June 2009)
Plastic costs billions to abate. The overall natural capital cost of plastic use in the consumer goods sector each year is US$75 billion. Source: United Nations Environment Programme "Plastic Waste Causes Financial Damage of US$13 Billion to Marine Ecosystems Each Year as Concern Grows over Microplastics," (23 June 2014)