Some Plastic Facts

Plastic is everywhere and environmental issues are a hot topic for the media but it can be hard to get a clear view on the true environmental impact of plastic. Whether you’re specifically looking for plastic recycling facts or trying to understand how long does it take for plastic to decompose, this page is here to give you the info in bite sized portions.


  • Plastic does not decompose. Over a period of 20 to 1000 years it breaks down into smaller bits of plastic that can enter the food chain (eek), form together to make something else plastic, or it breaks into polymers and harmful chemicals.

  • Every year, 6.4 million tonnes are dumped into the ocean. This is the same as 3,200 kilometres of trucks each loaded with rubbish or put another way, from London to Edinburgh AND BACK 3 times.

  • There are believed to be 46,000 bits of plastic in every square mile of ocean.

  • Each year, 100,000 marine animals are found dead – killed by being entangled in plastic. The number not found is unknown.

  • At least two thirds of the world’s fish stocks are believed to be suffering from plastic ingestion.

  • UK numbers are hard to find but in the US, 500,000,000 straws are used and thrown each day. That’s a mind blowing figure.

  • In the UK, 10,000 disposable coffee cups are thrown every 2 minutes. They are expected to take 30 years to breakdown (not decompose remember). That’s 2.5 billion every year.

  • Coffee cups cannot be recycled easily and must go to specialist recycling centre. Putting a coffee cup into your normal recycling is simply throwing it away. Only .04% of coffee cups in the UK are recycled.

  • France has banned plastic cutlery.

  • Recycling facilities in the UK vary by council and often, only plastic bottles are recycled. Do not assume that if it’s in your recycling it will be recycled. Info is normally available on your council’s website.

  • Microbeads are tiny little balls of plastic added to, well, an enormous number of products from toothpaste to cleaning products. They start out pretty small. It doesn’t take long for them to enter the food chain – especially the ones in your toothpaste!