Welcome Green Monsters! We're your online guide to making conscious choices that help people, animals and the planet.
Download food monster: the biggest, baddest, yummiest vegan food app!
Buy the #EatForThePlanet book



Plastic is certainly a superhero when it comes to making life more convenient. It can be made into dishes and eating utensils that you never have to wash. Single-serve beverages and snacks in plastic packaging are an easy grab-and-go option when you’re running out the door for work or school. And how about plastic shopping bags so you don’t have to remember to bring a gazillion reusable bags every time you head to the grocery store?

You may already be shaking your head at these excuses for using plastic, but the reality is that this material is very appealing to many for the fact that it makes life much more convenient. It can save you time and energy in your daily routine. And besides, a lot of those plastic water bottles and shopping bags end up in recycling centers where they’re made into awesome new products, right?

Well, it is true that some plastics do end up in recycling centers and can be made into sweet new objects like a park bench or playground equipment. The reality is that the majority of plastics go un-recycled. In the United States, the EPA estimates that only 12 percent of plastic waste gets recycled. The plastic materials that don’t end up recycled typically get sent to landfills where they may take as many as 1,000 years to decompose.

For something that is supposed to be quick and convenient, there is nothing quick or convenient about the complete lifecycle of a plastic object. It spends a mere fraction of its existence actually serving a purpose. And the rest of the time, you’ll find, it is actually a nuisance and threatens the health of the environment, animals, and even people. How so? Read on.

1. To Make Plastic, We Need Oil…

Before we can even address the issues that improperly discarded plastics present to the planet, we have to talk about the dangers they cause to the environment as they’re simply being produced. Petroleum and natural gas are required to manufacture plastics. For the 30 million plastic bags used in the United States per year alone, 12 million barrels of oil are required. And for all of the water bottles manufactures in the United States each year, roughly 17 million barrels of oil are needed. The drilling, transportation and processing of this oil into plastic materials is an energy intensive process that involves burning fossil fuels which ultimately furthers the effects of climate change. Estimates for the amount of carbon released from plastic manufacturing vary, but anywhere from 100 million to 500 million tons  per year as the direct result of plastic manufacturing. That works out to the equivalent of emissions from between 19 million and 92 million vehicles on the road, depending on which estimate you’re going with. So, even if you don’t use a vehicle to get around on a regular basis, a plastic addiction may still be causing you to contribute pretty heavily to our growing problem with climate change.

2. Mountains of Plastic

While it would be nice to think that all plastic ends up in a recycling plant once it is done being used, that simply is not true. As has been mentioned, a majority of plastics actually don’t end up making it to a recycling facility to be manufactured into a new object. Sadly, 80 percent of plastic water bottles used in the United States each year end up in a landfill. That’s roughly 38 billion water bottles! Numbers for plastic grocery bags are even worse. Between 0.5 and three percent of plastic bags are recycled, sending an estimated 100 billion plastic bags to landfills in America each year.

With such poor statistics on recycling, it is obvious that the bulk of plastic has to go somewhere once it is discarded. And that somewhere typically ends up being a landfill. According to Zero Waste America, there are 3,091 active landfills in the United States. And while landfills are designed to withhold their materials and seclude them from the surrounding environment, landfills end up leaking a variety of nasty pollutants. Leachate, liquid that forms as materials break down in a landfill, often leaks through the liners of the landfill and can pollute groundwater below. And greenhouse gases like methane are produced from decaying material inside landfills, leaking into the atmosphere and furthering climate change. Plus, plastic has a tendency of finding its way out of landfills … and ends up in local waterways.

3. Oceans of Plastic

You may already be familiar with the fact that there is a lot of plastic pollution in our oceans. Maybe you’ve seen a plastic bottle washing down a storm drain that would eventually empty into the ocean. And maybe you’ve seen a plastic shopping bag or two wash up on the sand during your last beach trip. Maybe you’re already aware of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch where ocean currents have allowed a large swath of the north Pacific to collect a spinning mass of garbage that is largely made up of plastics.

But all of that anecdotal evidence of plastic in our oceans doesn’t quite tell you the magnitude of the problem. A recent study released this year has scientists estimating that 8.8 million tons of plastic waste ended up in the ocean in 2010. And with plastic use becoming more and more popular for individuals all over the world, it is estimated this figure will increase 10 times over the next decade. Another recent study released by the 5 Gyres Institute estimates that there are currently 5.25 trillion plastic particles in the ocean. Sources of this waste are wide ranging including plastic fishing nets, food and beverage containers, microbeads from personal care items, cosmetics, straws, and bags just to name a few.

And who is dumping all of this plastic into our oceans? Well, everybody. Countries with less advanced waste management systems are at risk of contributing more to the pollution. China leads the world in contributing to the plastic problem in our oceans, followed by the likes of Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Even though the United States boasts a more advanced waste management system, it does rank 20th on the list. There is still a dense population on the coast and plastic use in high demand, so there is a lot of available plastic that can slip through the cracks.

4. Marine Animals Eating Plastic

Plastic doesn’t just accumulate in the ocean and make for an unsightly mess. It is hurting and killing a great deal of marine life all over the world.

Ingestion of plastic pollution can be downright deadly for marine animals. And sadly, it’s a common occurrence. Last summer a necropsy on a deceased sei whale found in the Chesapeake Bay showed the animal had been unable to feed due to a laceration in its stomach caused by a plastic DVD case. In 2013 in Spain, scientists found a dead sperm whale and determined its cause of death was intestinal blockage. In its digestive system were 59 pieces of plastic waste totaling 37 pounds in weight. Sea turtles are now ingesting twice the plastic they were 25 years ago. In total, it is estimated that ingestion of plastic kills 1 million marine birds and 100,000 marine animals each year.

Sadly, ingestion of plastic isn’t the only threat that this type of pollution poses to marine animals. Plastics can also entangle marine animals, making movement, feeding and growth difficult or even impossible. Plastic-based ropes, fishing nets, and even soda can holders can get wrapped around heads, flippers, and tails of marine animals. A recent literature report released by NOAA states that roughly 200 different marine species worldwide have been reported suffering entanglements, with 115 of those species reported originating in the United States. And because some species happen to inhabit areas where plastic pollution is more common, a larger portion of their population is more susceptible to entanglements. This fact proves true for species like the Hawaiian monk seal which swim and feed in areas close to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

5. Killin’ The Mood For Fish

Plastics in aquatic ecosystems don’t just become a problem when they wrap around an animal or end up blocking digestive systems. Plastics can also introduce a chemical warfare to the bodies of fish, and scientists are actually finding that it is killing reproductive health of many fish species.

Included in the chemical cocktail aquatic animals are hit with from pollution is something called “endocrine disruptors.” These impact the endocrine system, obviously, which can be detrimental to the immune system, reproductive system, development, neurological responses and overall growth. Bisphenol A or BPA is found in many plastics entering the ocean and, unfortunately, it acts as an endocrine disruptor for fish. Scientists have observed BPA exposure to some freshwater fish species as a source of confusion for the fish, make it difficult for them to pursue their own species to mate. Clearly, a fish of one species attempting to mate with a fish of another species will not result in reproductive success for either.

Lines between fish species not only become blurred by plastics. This type of pollution is also impacting gender in some fish species as well. Chemicals in plastics are one of several types of pollution that are feminizing male fish. When fish are exposed to chemicals that mimic estrogen during development, their ability to develop into males is thwarted and female characteristics develop instead. There have also been scientific observations in which fish become intersex due to their exposure to BPA, among other pollutants. There have been promising results when water can be treated in a treatment plant which removes some of these chemicals. But the problem of plastic pollution is very widespread and difficult to address on a large scale. Until we can get a handle on it, the reproductive rates of some fish will continue to be at risk.

6. Plastic On Your Plate

If you thought plastic pollution in the environment was not something that could directly impact human health, you were wrong. And, depending on your diet, you may actually be eating a variety of nasty chemicals as the result of plastic pollution.

Fish consume plastics both intentionally and unintentionally. And these plastics, depending on how long they’ve been floating in the water, may have a variety of chemicals attached to them such as heavy metals, PCB’s and other pollutants. Once fish absorb these chemicals from ingested plastic, the chemicals are then free to enter the bodies of anything higher up on the food chain, including humans. While some fish sold in the United States is tested for contaminates by the EPA, the amount of dangerous chemicals in most seafood harvested outside the country is not known. By including fish in your diet, you may be exposing your body to a variety of chemicals you’d never willingly ingest. With the amount of plastics fish are exposed to in aquatic environments, it really does become a gamble with your own health to rely on fish as a source of nutrients in your diet.

Is it Worth the Convenience?

Even if you’re a recycling rockstar when it comes to plastic, you may now be considering whether the convenience of using plastic is actually worth the cost. It may be difficult to avoid plastics in all aspects of life, but surely you can find ways to reduce your dependence on plastic. Since you can’t guarantee that everything you toss into the recycling bin will actually end up at a recycling plant, reducing your dependence on plastic is really the way to go.

Luckily for you, One Green Planet is here to help you break free from plastic. Consider these 10 Life Hacks To Help You Get Plastic Out of The Picture. Replace those microbeads with coffee grounds for your exfoliating routine. Plan ahead to buy what you can in bulk without packaging in order to avoid extra plastic. And think about storing your produce in towels as opposed to plastic bags. Tell that plastic to take a hike!

If you’re still itching for more, check out these 20 Switches to Get Plastic Out of Your Life. There is a multitude of materials out there to replace your plastic materials- stainless steel, glass, ceramic, bamboo, canvas, etc. The possibilities are limitless!

Kicking plastic to the curb will take some effort. But doesn’t it sound like the more convenient choice for the planet?
Together, we can take action and #CrushPlastic once and for all for the sake of marine life – and importantly, us.

Let’s #CrushPlastic! Click the graphic below for more information.


Lead image source: Speakupforthevoiceless

Want to read more posts like this? Sign up for our newsletter below!​

Browse through some recent posts below:

Are Processed Vegan Meats Good Healthy? Dr. Michael Greger, Co-Author of ‘How Not To Die’ Weighs in

Are Processed Vegan Meats Good for You? Dr. Michael Greger, Co-Author of 'How Not To Die' Weighs in

How Our Current Food System Is Threatening Marine Life … But You Can Help

How Our Current Food System is Threatening Marine Life ... and How You Can Help

This Butter Is Palm Oil Free, Dairy-Free, Soy-Free … And It’s All Vegan

This Butter Is Palm Oil Free, Dairy-Free, Soy-Free ... And It's All Vegan

We’re Turning the Oceans Into Floating Pig Farms – All For One Unnecessary Reason

Disclosure: One Green Planet accepts advertising, sponsorship, affiliate links and other forms of compensation, which may or may not influence the advertising content, topics or articles written on this site. Click here for more information.

173 comments on “Is it Really Worth the Convenience? 6 Ways Plastic is Harming Animals, the Planet and Us”

Click to add comment
2 Days ago

Consumers are NOT the ones who are the main culprits of the problem. By the time they buy it, it has already been produced. It is too late. All of these types of articles and comments always tell consumers to take action. They can only do so much. The main problem are the companies that make it. Are consumers not supposed to buy products? Everything in the supermarket, every product , every packaging has plastic in it. Even supposed green products are wrapped in plastic. It is the companies, the grocery stores etc that need to get rid of plastic. It\'s not about the individual consumer, it\'s about the producers. If they stopped making it, if they used another material then people would use that. Case in point: Whole foods/Trader Joes use paper bags to bag your groceries, so guess what? People use that. Other grocery stores don\'t have that option. So guess what? People have to use plastic. However, ALL of them still use plastic for every individual food item. What is the consumer going to do about that? Doesn\'t it make more sense to eliminate it from the source?

Sai Vidhya
13 Days ago

Effective love spell to get lost lover back/stop divorce/save broken marriage [email protected] is the best on urgent love spell casting with 100% result guarantee
Am Sai Vidhya from CA Usa my boyfriend cheated on me and asked for breakup. I don\'t believe at first i try to get back with him but all he told me was he’s with someone else. that he is no longer interested in marrying me at that point i was heart broken coz i love my boyfriend so much that i could not let go off him all of a sudden he left me, i really love him and never can imagine my life without him. not until i came across a powerful real spell caster Dr happy who promise me 48hours urgent love spell to get back with my boyfriend, good forty-eight {48} hours. hmm-mm, it was a good night time at 10:05pm within the days that Dr happy told me that my boyfriend will be back, at first i heard the bell rings getting close to my door i heard someone saying honey!!!, it sound familiar i opened the door and i saw my boyfriend standing and weeping in front of me. i was not surprised because its all i have been praying for him to come back home. Guess what in six days after i noticed my system and my body temperature is changed and i went to clinic for check up and the doctor told me that there is life in me which means i am pregnant i really wants to use this opportunity to thanks Dr happy so much and my lovely collage who directed me to Dr happy if you have any problem or predicament that is worse or exactly like this you have been into, i plead you to contact Dr happy on [email protected] you can also view on his blogs site... https://happylovespell2.blogspot.com.ng/ whatsapp/call...+2348133873774

2 Months Ago

help so much i love your website =)

4 Months Ago


03 Mar 2018

Yeah we should book plastic should be banned

5 Months Ago

Genuine online spell cater on urgent love spell to get your ex back, fix your broken marriage and stop divorce [email protected] is the best dr to help you and restored back your happiness
I just found out about my husband cheating on me with a co-worker! We’ve been married going on two years. 2kids. lots of amazing momments together. i want to leave, but i love him so much. all i can think about is how nothing stopped him. how he has to see her everyday because they work together. we are both still young and very attractive. but i want my husband, my friend, and the father of my beautiful children. how do i get past the thought of another woman having my husband? Not my fiancé, not my boyfriend, but my husband! i still love him even though he thinks i want to leave i really want him to do better and stop me before i walk out! my husband told me that he doesn’t feel loved anymore, just because of this co-worker he has be cheating on with me that he wants a divorce, i was devastated, heart broken i begged him to listen to me that we can work it out like we always do, but he didn’t listen, he told me that he met someone that loves and understands him, i begged him to consider our kids but he’s did listen. he left and i was frustrated, i began searching for help and answers, then i heard about a man that can Cast a spell to remind him of all the things we have been through together, at first I was scared then i decided to give it a try, and like magic my husband came back, apology and begging for forgiveness, thanks to this man, I’m posting this to help people with
similar issues. You can contact him for help too. [email protected] or call and add him of on whatsapp number: +2348133873774

Judy Maharaj
1 Years Ago

It is truly disgusting to see creatures of the sea suffering and dying , because of humanity's nasty and greedy habits ! Plastics and all other deadly human made objects , did not grow legs and jump into the sea. Humans need to be considerate , and wise in how we treat with the environment and other life forms .

Sheila Sylla
1 Years Ago

Inventors and Producers should have a solution to get rid or dispose Plastic properly!! The Oceans brought Life to this Planet - please show more respect & care to our Oceans! Our Oceans are not Dustbins!Plastic has its good side and bad !

Tom Fitzwater
1 Years Ago

Use your own (non plastic, preferred) grocery bags, and some stores will give you credit rebates, when you do.

Tom Fitzwater
1 Years Ago

Use your own (non plastic, preferred) grocery bags, and some stores will give you credit rebates, when you do.

Cheryl Best Sanchez
1 Years Ago

this is a shame on that same note, plastic is also harmful to you too! read up on it and do now reheat your food in plastic!!!


Subscribe to our Newsletter

Follow us on

Do Not Show This Again


Submit to OneGreenPlanet

Terms & Conditions ×