A Word About Recycling with Ollie Maier

Every minute, customers purchase approximately a million plastic bottles and only about 23 percent of plastic bottles are recycled. Photo by Steven Depolo/ Flickr


Last week, in preparation for Earth Day, on April 22, I mentioned I would address some stats on single-use plastic as reported by the Earth Day Network.

The article started with something we’re all familiar with, “the billions upon billions of items of plastic waste choking our oceans, lakes and rivers and piling up on land.”

This plastic pollution is more than unsightly, it’s harmful to plants and wildlife. Plastic pollution is very real and single-use plastics are small but have a large impact.

Here are those stats they reported on the impact of single-use plastic:

  1. World plastics production in 2016 totaled about 335 million metric tons. Roughly half of this production was for single-use products.
  2. Every minute, customers buy about a million plastic bottles. Unfortunately, within our country, only about 23 percent of plastic bottles are recycled.
  3. About 50 billion water bottles are purchased by Americans every year. This averages out to about 13 bottles per month for every person in the U.S. For those of us who use a reusable water bottle, we probably save about 156 plastic bottles annually – and it’s cheaper.
  4. An estimated 4 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year. Of these, only about 1 percent are returned for recycling. Americans throw away about 307 bags per person or 100 billion plastic bags each year. Fortunately, all that waste could be eliminated by just switching to reusable shopping bags as many of us have already done.
  5. About half a million straws are used in the world every day. Some concerned people are already refusing straws. Or I find you can use a straw over and over just by cleaning it after use.
  6. An estimated 500 billion disposable cups are used every year. We Americans throw away probably 25 billion plastic foam coffee cups every year. Unfortunately, plastic foam cannot be completely recycled. Much of the plastic foam thrown away today will still be present in landfills (and other places) 500 years from now. Why not use the refillable insulated mug for your coffee as some of us do? Mine even has a handle on it making it easier to use.
  7. Unfortunately, many single-use-plastics frequently do not make it to a landfill or are recycled. A full 32 percent of the 78 million tons of plastic packaging produced annually is left to flow into our oceans; the equivalent of pouring one garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute. That’s a lot of plastic to contaminate fish and hurt ocean going birds.
  8. More plastic being produced each year and increased plastic packaging is the main reason for it. Its use as packaging amounts to 42 percent of all plastic made and of it, more than 52 percent was just thrown away.
  9. Sending single-use plastics to the landfill – and we have 3,091 active landfills in the U.S. – does not make it harmless. The landfill liners can leak harmful pollutants into the watershed plus those on top can be carried away by the wind.

I must admit some of it opened my eyes to how bad it really is.

The Earth Day Network states that the best way to curb single-use plastic pollution is to reduce your personal plastic consumption. I think that’s a very good idea and thus we try to do that wherever/whenever possible. If you haven’t been, maybe Earth Day would be a good time to start.

Till next week, do have a great one...

-- Ollie is a local citizen concerned with the environment and helping others. A retired Air Force fighter and instructor pilot, he is a graduate of Leadership San Marcos and received his degrees at Texas State University where he worked on staff before totally retiring. For questions or comments, he invites you to call him at 512-353-7432 or e-mail omaier@txstate.edu.

San Marcos Daily Record

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