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Plastic Litter Statistics 2023

Look around you. It isn’t too difficult to spot plastics, right? That’s because plastic has become a staple material in life. It’s in everything and everywhere you go. It’s in your trusty phones, cars, and even a turtle’s guts—wait, what?

It’s the sad truth. Although plastic has significantly advanced technology and human life, it’s also responsible for the death of at least 100,000 marine animals yearly and emissions of about 15% of the world’s carbon budget, contributing to the climate crisis.

But it’s not just plastic’s fault. It’s also your fault, our fault. Would it reach the oceans, lands, and the atmosphere had it not been for our negligence and greed? It wouldn’t. 

Still unconvinced? Here are plastic litter statistics for 2023 that’ll make you realise how years of reliance on conventional plastics and littering shaped the world we know today.

Plastic litter statistics

Nations worldwide, including Australia, have benefited a lot from the wonders of plastics. Unfortunately, plastic innovations also came with plastic litter, affecting us and our environment.


The World

Beating plastic litter pollution

Based on 2023’s plastic litter statistics, plastic pollution is worsening daily. Now’s the time to care and learn more about how to do our bit for the environment. Starting with the following plastic litter solutions and alternatives: 

1. Strengthening recycling initiatives

If we accept plastic as part of our daily lives today and in the years to come, we must be 100% committed to its recycling.

But Australia and the world are currently struggling with this, as shown below: 

Remember, recycling is not just the government’s responsibility. Each one of us should be responsible for our waste, even kids. If you need help with recycling, you may look for the following in your country or city:

  • Kerbside Recycling Collection
  • Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs)
  • Local Recycling Centres
  • Rubbish Removal Services
  • Charities and Donation Centres

2. Single-use plastic ban

The single-use plastic ban is among the world’s boldest attempts to combat plastic pollution as it challenges the long-standing dominance of plastics in packaging. The following countries have started it on certain plastic products:

  • Zimbabwe (2010): plastic packaging and bottles 
  • Antigua and Barbuda (2016): single-use catering and takeaway items 
  • Pacific Island of Vanuatu (2018): disposable containers
  • European Union (2021): cotton buds, balloon sticks, single-use catering and takeaway items (e.g. polystyrene foam)
  • UK (2023): single-use plastic plates, cutlery, balloon sticks, and polystyrene cups and containers supplied to restaurants, cafes and takeaways

Australia also caught up in this movement. As of 2023, 7 of 8 Australian states pledged to ban single-use plastics. The ACT, Queensland, and South Australia began the ban in 2021, NSW and Western Australia in 2022, Victoria in 2023, and the Northern Territory plans to do so by 2025. 

Tasmania is yet to commit, but city councils in Hobart and Launceston have already initiated the ban. 

Thanks to these initiatives, we’ve managed to cope with plastic pollution for now. However, these solutions are temporary since plastics are still in demand due to their affordability and convenience. 

To truly reduce plastic, the world must adopt sustainable alternatives in the long run. Fortunately, businesses and researchers have introduced more sustainable options. Check out the list below to see how they’re doing.

3. Plastic alternatives

  • Glass, metals, and paper

With the ongoing plastic crisis, people have sought materials to replace plastics. Some of these are:

  • Glass

Glass is crafted from natural materials like sand, soda ash, and limestone, melted at high temperatures. It’s also highly reusable and can be recycled multiple times without losing quality. But it’s heavier and more fragile than plastic.

  • Metals

Other emerging alternatives are metals like aluminium and copper. Although metal extraction can be environmentally damaging, aluminium and copper are lightweight and recyclable.

With these benefits, aluminium and copper water bottles and food containers have started gaining traction.

  • Paper

Paper is often believed to be a great alternative to plastic. Yes, it’s recyclable and generally made from natural materials. But paper recycling requires lots of energy, water, and chemicals. Plus, it’s not good at handling liquids. 

  • Bioplastics

What if there’s plastic made from renewable sources that would quickly decompose?

Bioplastic! It’s usually made of starch and cellulose, making it a sustainable alternative. However, you must be sure you’re using the correct ‘bioplastic’. 

Today, only Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) are known bioplastics to completely decompose in oceans, contrary to polylactic acid (PLA) bioplastic or corn-plastic, which only worsens the problem with microplastics.   

To provide you with a brief overview of its use and impact, here are a few statistics on bioplastics:

  • Bioplastic global production capacity will grow to 2.87 million metric tons by 2025.
  • Bioplastics are less than 1% of the over 390 million tonnes of plastics produced yearly. 
  • Bioplastics will decrease the use of petroleum in plastic production by 15-20% by 2025. 
  • Final Thoughts

These plastic litter statistics reveal the unfortunate reality that plastics are here to stay for years, maybe even beyond our lifetime. And it will only disappear or reduce in number if we cut plastic production, recycle, stop littering, and choose sustainable alternatives.

It’s time we realise that the plastic problem isn’t so much about the plastic itself but more about what we do with it.

Sarah Ann

Sarah Ann

Sarah Ann is a Digital Content Writer for Paul's Rubbish Removal. Sarah is a huge advocate for recycling, environmental sustainability, health and well-being and has a genuine love for all sea animals. Keep up with Sarah by following Paul's Rubbish Removal blog!

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