Plastic doesn't go away. Of all the plastic ever manufactured – an estimated 8.3 billion metric tons – most of it still exists as waste in some form. Roughly half of all plastic becomes trash in less than a year. On its own, it typically takes hundreds of years or more to degrade.
That's a big problem. More than 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans every year, polluting the water, killing ocean life, and eventually ending up in on our table in the form of shellfish and even salt. The World Economic Forum estimates that the total weight of microplastics in the oceans will top that of fish by 2050. Plastic waste on land is often incinerated, releasing toxic gases like dioxins, furans, mercury, and polychlorinated biphenyls into the atmosphere. The plastics that don't end up in the ocean or air continue to leach toxic chemicals into the environment, polluting our water and food systems.
Clearly, we need to kick our plastic habit; but we're still producing nearly 300 million tons of plastic every year, half of which is for single use. And with the methods of disposable just as toxic as the plastic itself, many environmentalists have been at a loss for what to do.