Plastic Pollution Facts

Discover the top ten plastic polluters in the environment.



Plastic pollution fact: Plastic polystyrene products are everywhere, from coffee cup lids to straws, to cutlery and cups (even SOLO cups). Expanded polystyrene foam is commonly known as "Styrofoam.”


Plastic pollution fact: We worked with Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, L'Oreal and Unilever to voluntarily phase out plastic microbeads from products made by brands like Neutrogena, Dove and The Body Shop. In 2015, President Obama signed The Microbead-Free Waters Act into law, making these polluting plastics illegal in the United States as of 2018.




Plastic pollution fact: If you're not wearing natural fibers like (preferably organic) cotton, hemp, or wool, you're probably wearing plastic. All materials shed fibers. But unlike wool and cotton, plastic microfibers from synthetic materials don't biodegrade in the environment. In addition, many microfibers are treated with flame retardants like PCBs, which are endocrine disruptors that could negatively impact your health.

Plastic Bottles

Plastic pollution fact: Nearly three million bottles, that’s the number of plastic water bottles that Americans use—an hour. Yes, you read that right, every hour of every day. Consumers know that plastic water bottles are bad. A 2018 Mintel Water Insights study found that 29% of those who purchase and drink bottled water say that drinking it is bad for the environment, and 1 in 4 people have stopped purchasing bottled water because it is plastic. 

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Plastic Straws

“It’s just one straw,” said 8 billion people. Plastic pollution fact: We use more than 500 million plastic straws each day. Straws are too small to be easily recycled. In fact, plastic straws are one of the top polluters on our beaches and can be harmful to animals.

Plastic Bags

Plastic pollution fact: Globally, one million single-use plastic bags are used every minute and only one percent of plastic bags are recycled each year. In 2014, California became the first state to ban plastic bags, which made international news. This decision set the tone for how the rest of the country deals with the plastic bag problem.


Plastic pollution fact: Single-use plastic wrappers and applicators cannot be recycled and end up in landfills. For years, organizations like Women’s Voices for the Earth have campaigned for disclosure of the risks posed by the presence of petrochemical components in feminine hygiene products. The organization won a huge victory in 2015, when two of the largest feminine care manufacturers—Procter and Gamble and Kimberly Clark—agreed to disclose ingredients in pads and tampons.


Plastic pollution fact: Whether latex or mylar, balloons blow away, burst, deflate and return to pollute the planet. These products made our BAN List 2.0 as some of the world's worst plastic items — from both an environmental and toxic chemicals perspective.


Cigarette Butts

Plastic pollution fact: Made of non-biodegradable cellulose acetate — a type of plastic — cigarette butts are the most common form of plastic litter found on beaches worldwide. Once littered they leach toxic chemicals — including acetic acid, hexamine, arsenic, and chromium — into our water table, where these chemicals can remain for as many as 10 years and can be poisonous to the fish and wildlife that ingest them.


Plastic & Climate Change

Plastic pollution fact: 99% of plastic comes from fossil fuels. Currently, one of the most inexpensive ways to make plastic is through “cracking.” When land is fracked to produce fossil fuels, ethane gas is produced as a byproduct. Cracking plants — also known as “crackers”— convert ethane to ethylene, which is used to make polyethylene plastic. Plastic production is projected to triple by 2050. 


Plastic & Animals

Plastic pollution fact: More than 1,200 species are impacted by plastic, through ingestion or entanglement — both of which can sicken or even kill them. Birds, fish, turtles, dolphins, sharks and even whales can be poisoned or trapped by plastic debris, waste, and garbage. And all animals (including humans) on earth depend on the ocean for food and a healthy ecosystem that maintains the balance of greenhouse gases. Scientists agree: If the oceans die, we die.