How to Reduce Plastic Waste: The Impact of Plastic Pollution on the Environment and Oceans

Plastic pollution is a global crisis, with approximately 400 million tons generated annually worldwide, as reported by the UN Environment Programme. Shockingly, less than 10% of the 70 billion tons of plastic produced globally are recycled. This results in vast amounts of plastic infiltrating rivers, lakes, oceans, and natural environments, persisting as microplastics that may eventually find their way into the human body.

💡Did you know?

  • Global plastic production is expected to reach 1.4 billion tons by 2050.
  • Five massive garbage patches, with the potential for 3.6 trillion plastic pieces, have emerged in the oceans.
  • Plastic does not decompose but breaks down into microplastics, entering the food chain and ultimately affecting human health.

How much plastic do we actually use?

From water bottles to shopping bags, plastics are all around us in our daily lives. In 2021, global plastic usage exceeded 390 million tons, excluding plastics in synthetic fibers and other industries, suggesting a much higher actual plastic output.

Unfortunately, despite efforts to recycle, a significant portion of plastic ends up in landfills or is improperly disposed of. Approximately 36% of human-produced plastic is used in packaging, with a staggering 85% of these items ending up as waste.

What’s even more frightening is that this number is expected to more than quadruple in 2050, reaching 1.4 billion tons of plastic production, as reported by the Plastic Soup Foundation.


More than 80% of the plastic waste is buried as garbage or discarded randomly. (Photo from Unsplash)


Environmental Impact of Plastic

Plastic pollution poses severe threats to the environment and marine life. Rivers carry substantial amounts of plastic into the oceans, resulting in the formation of five massive garbage patches containing trillions of plastic pieces.

This pollution harms marine life, causing animals like whales and sea turtles to ingest or become entangled in plastic, leading to starvation and death. The proliferation of microplastics poses a significant threat, as these particles permeate oceans and marine life, eventually entering the human food chain.

The plastic you throw into recycling bins and trash cans is likely to be improperly disposed of or put into landfills, and then drift into the sea through rivers. Every year, between 1.15 million and 2.41 million tons of plastic waste is carried into the sea by rivers. Plastic floats on water, is easy to drift, and is difficult to decompose, making them float farther throughout the sea. (Source: The Ocean CleanUp, THE GREAT PACIFIC GARBAGE PATCH).

The Trash Islands Problem

Since the 1970s, plastic waste generated by humans has continued to enter the ocean through rivers and lakes. Currently, five huge garbage islands have appeared in the sea, with the amount of plastic on each garbage island shockingly ranging from 1.1 trillion to 3.6 trillion.

Health Risks and Microplastics

Microplastics, formed through the degradation of larger plastic items, pose a dual threat by harming the environment and infiltrating human bodies. In regions like California's Monterey Bay, water samples reveal an alarming concentration of microplastics, averaging 15 particles per cubic meter.

Plastic particles have been found in seafood commonly consumed by humans, including fish, mussels, oysters, etc., and these plastic particles will enter the human body along the food chain.


Plastic particles have been detected in seafood commonly consumed by humans. (Photo from Unsplash)

Reducing Plastic Waste

To mitigate plastic pollution, it's crucial to address the issue at its source. Adopting eco-friendly practices, such as using reusable water bottles and bags, minimizing unnecessary plastic products, and choosing single-material items that can be easily and fully recycled, is essential.

Proper recycling practices are vital to ensuring that plastics are not treated as waste but are effectively reused.



The plastic crisis demands immediate action to safeguard our environment and oceans. By collectively reducing plastic usage, adopting sustainable practices, and promoting responsible recycling, we can work towards a cleaner, healthier planet for current and future generations.