How Much Plastic We Consume?


The World celebrated 2024 Earth Day with a Planet vs Plastics theme on April 22, and I wrote a brief note to mark the occasion. A recent CNN article reports referring to a 2024 study, “Ninety percent of animal and vegetable protein samples tested positive for microplastics, teeny polymer fragments that can range from less than 0.2 inch (5 millimeters) down to 1/25,000th of an inch (1 micrometer). Anything smaller than 1 micrometer is a nanoplastic that must be measured in billionths of a meter.”

  • According to a 2021 study, even vegetarians can’t escape. If the plastic is small enough, fruits and vegetables can absorb microplastics through their root systems and transfer those chemical bits to the plant’s stems, leaves, seeds and fruit.
  • Salt can be packed with plastic. A 2023 study found coarse Himalayan pink salt mined from the ground had the most microplastics, followed by black salt and marine salt.
  • Sugar is also “an important route of human exposure to these micropollutants,” according to a 2022 study.
  • Researchers at McGill University in Quebec, Canada found brewinga single plastic teabag released about 11.6 billion microplastic and 3.1 billion nanoplastic particles into the water.
  • A University of Queensland study found that for every 100 grams (1/2 cup) of rice people eat, they consume three to four milligrams of plastic — the number jumps to 13 milligrams per serving for instant rice. (You can reduce plastic contamination by up to 40% by washing rice, researchers said. That also helps reduce arsenic,which can be high in rice.)
  • According to a March 2024 study, one liter of water — the equivalent of two standard-size bottled waters — contained an average of 240,000 plastic particles from seven types of plastics, including nanoplastics.
CNN Health

Reuters reports “Microscopic pieces of plastic have been discovered in the most remote locations, from the depths of the ocean to Arctic ice. Another place that plastic is appearing is inside our bodies. We’re breathing microplastic, eating it and drinking plastic-infused water every day.”

The World produces around 400 million metric tons of plastic waste each year. Everyday, 2,000 truckloads of it is into the ocean, rivers, and lakes.

CNN

In our life time, we are said to consume over 44 lbs (20kg) of plastic. “The average human lives for 79 years. Using the current estimate of microplastic in our diets and assuming the situation doesn’t improve or worsen, that equates to 20 kilograms of plastic consumption. That’s more plastic than the two mobile recycling bins shown below, which only weigh 10kg each,” Reuters reports.

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