Fast Facts About Plastics Pollution

Plastic pollution is a problem for waterways, wildlife and public health around the world. Plastic trash enters the environment through litter, manufacturing and everyday life and is a common problem in Philadelphia. 

Today the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University and its partners, the Philadelphia Water Department and BOMA Philadelphia, announced the Plastic-free Philly initiative to encourage people to stop buying single-use plastic water bottles and instead drink tap water and use reusable plastic water bottles. 

Photo by Brian Yurasits on Unsplash

These facts help define the issue in the Philadelphia area and beyond: 

  • More than half a trillion plastic bottles are sold around the world every year; 50 billion in America. 
  • Only 5% to 6% of the 46 million tons of plastics generated in the U.S. each year get recycled, fewer than the 9% just a few years ago, according to a new study by two environmental groups
  • Plastic waste accounts for 56% of trash removed in a single year from a 32-mile stretch of the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers. 
  • 40% of Philadelphians drink bottled water at home instead of tap water, according to a study by the Philadelphia Water Department and University of Pennsylvania. 
  • While municipal tap water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency and subject to rigorous testing, bottled water is not, and bottled water is not immune from micro-plastic contamination. 
Photo by Kate Moreau
  • Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic, often invisible to the naked eye that come from larger objects when they are broken down by sunlight, oxygen or friction. It is unclear whether microplastics pose a danger to human health, but they are often ingested by wildlife and pose a risk of choking, suffocation and contamination that can persist up the food chain. 
  • One global study found microplastics in 93% of bottled water tested. 
  • As much as 40% of bottled water is simply municipal tap water bottled up and sold, according to Drink Philly Tap. 
  • Bottled water production uses 2,000 times as much energy as tap water production and it is a huge cost to water resources: Three liters of water are needed in order to make one liter of plastic-bottled water. 

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