78 Plastic in The Ocean Statistics & Facts 2020-2021

Plastic - a ubiquitous material in our lives. From microfibres in the clothes we wear to the containers our food comes in, there’s no escaping plastic in the modern world.

And increasingly, when it comes to water, plastic is never far from hand. We’ve become addicted to buying plastic water bottles and whether it’s sparkling, flavored or still it’s always plastic.

Plastic is so normalized in our lives that it’s hard to imagine a world without it. And when we see something every day, we forget about the hidden world of production and consumption and waste that revolves around it, just out of view.

Whilst global plastic production appears to have peaked in 2019 with 368 million tons, the effects of COVID and global shutdowns may also have suppressed the numbers. In 2021, plastic production is on the rise, and as our alarming statistics show, the vast majority of this plastic is never recycled.

As plastic piles up in landfills, on beaches and in coral reefs across our world, you may be wondering what can be done.

Armed with plastic facts and statistics, you can start making a difference to plastic consumption and recycling. Share these shocking facts with your friends and family to create a rippling effect, reducing plastic consumption in your community.

Plastic Fanatics: Key Questions About Our Plastic Water Bottle Consumption

1. How long does it take for plastic to decompose?

For a single plastic water bottle, this process takes around 450 years. (1)

Plastic is an exceptionally robust material - that’s why corporations are addicted to plastic packaging our food and water in its shiny confines. But there’s a downside to plastic’s exceptional longevity - it’s incredibly slow to decompose, causing it to pile up in our landfills and swamp our oceans.

Because bacteria can’t decompose plastic in the usual way, it breaks down under sunlight and exposure to the elements. When it comes to plastic water bottles, it’s a case of a moment on the lips, forever in the landfill!

2. How many plastic bottles are used each day worldwide?

Get ready for some big numbers. Recent studies calculating our plastic consumption suggest that we’re using around 1 million plastic bottles every minute - that’s 1.4 billion bottles every day. (2)

But it gets worse - this data is from 2017, and our plastic consumption has been increasing ever since. It’s predicted that in 2021, plastic consumption will have increased by 20% - that’s 1.7 billion, or another 300 million bottles being used every single day!

3. What percentage of plastic in the ocean is plastic bottles?

Around 8 million tons of plastic water bottles end up in our ocean every year. No matter the percentage, we can’t ignore 8 million tons of polluting plastic! With around 165 million tons of plastic estimated to be in our ocean, each year, each year we add another 5% of plastic water bottle pollution to our ocean. Tragic.

4. Which country buys the most bottled water?

It’s the league table that no country wants to be on top of. Who’s the biggest culprit for bottled water consumption in the world?

Surprisingly, Mexico tops the table for per capita consumption - a combination of relative affluence and clean water infrastructure drives eight out of ten Mexicans and nine out of ten residents of Mexico city to drink bottled water on a regular basis.

In terms of sheer quantity, however, China consumes an eye-watering amount of bottled water. Every year in China, an extraordinary 27.7 billion gallons of bottled water are drunk. That’s billions of plastic bottles, destined for the landfill.

Shocking, isn’t it? But it doesn’t stop there. Here are 78 more frightening facts and figures about plastic water bottle pollution across the globe.

Plastic Water Bottle Consumption

Plastic bottles are a ubiquitous feature of modern life, from our backpacks to our refrigerators. Like rats, it’s likely that you’re never more than two meters from a plastic bottle in today’s world! To get a grip on our plastic addiction we need to understand how plastic water bottles are being used and consumed across the world - here are a few shocking stats to get you started!

  • 40% of plastic usage comes from consumer packaging. You can make a difference!
  • Four out of five plastic bottles we use end up in a landfill.
  • Every year, 80 billion Coke bottles end up in a landfill!
  • That’s around 2 million tons of plastic water bottles in landfills in the United States!
  • And it takes over 1,000 years for a new plastic bottle to decomposing bottle.
  • One-sixth of our trash is composed of plastic.
  • And less than half of our plastic waste is recycled.
  • China generates 59 million tons of plastic waste each year.
  • But per capita, Americans produce more plastic waste than anywhere else - 340g of plastic, every single day!
  • The average American uses 156 bottles a year.
  • That’s 38 million tons of plastic waste in the Unites States, every year.
  • The United Kingdom comes second - wasting around 210g of plastic, per person, per day. Nobody can be smug about plastic waste!
  • In the United States, over 60 million plastic bottles are tossed in the trash every day.
  • In a single week, 40,000 18-wheelers are required to deliver plastic bottles across the country. That’s a lot of mileage!
  • More bottled water is drunk in the US than beer or milk - what a waste.
  • Bottled water consumption should be going down. But it’s rising by 10% every year.

Plastic Bottle Production

Plastic bottles are everywhere - but how much do you really know about the production of plastic? Here are some facts that might surprise you.

  • An astonishing 500 billion plastic bottles are used every year.
  • Coca-Cola is responsible for around 1 in 5 plastic bottles - that’s 100 billion a year.
  • Around 17 million barrels of oil are used to produce new plastic bottles each year.
  • And making a single plastic bottle uses around 3 times as much water as a bottle can hold. Talk about inefficient!
  • You can make plastic bottles from 100% recycled plastic - the material is called RPet.
  • And making a bottle from recycled plastic uses one-quarter of the energy required to produce a brand new bottle.
  • Yet the six drink manufacturer giants use less than 7% recycled plastic in their bottles.
  • Half of all plastic is manufactured in Asia alone.

Plastic And Animals

Plastic is harming our planet as well as every form of life on it. The biggest impact is on marine birds and life in our ocean, but damage from plastic production and consumption is also impacting many other forms of life. Here are some frightening facts about the harm plastic is causing in our natural world.

  • It’s estimated that plastic kills around 100 million marine animals each year.
  • Every year another million seabirds die due to plastic water bottle pollution.
  • One of the main causes of death for sea life is the consumption of plastic. Floating in the water, plastic is often mistaken for food by these creatures.
  • 9 out of 10 seabirds examined by scientists are found to have ingested some plastic.
  • A shocking 100% of sea turtles are found to have ingested plastic.
  • And plastic has been found in almost 60% of whale’s stomachs.
  • 1 in 3 seals is also thought to have plastic in their stomachs. These animals can’t digest plastic and it stays there forever.
  • Coral reefs are one of the most fragile ecosystems on our planet and they house around a quarter of all life in the ocean. When coral reefs encounter marine plastic, they die almost nine times out of ten.
  • Due to a combination of plastic and warming temperatures, half of all coral reefs have died in the last 30 years.

Plastic And The Ocean

Our rivers and oceans are fragile natural environments, evolved over thousands of years to a delicate balance. And in a fraction of that time, we’ve dumped millions of tons of plastic into the ocean, dangerously upsetting that balance. We’re used to getting our water in plastic bottles, but sadly we’re also getting used to having plastic bottles in our water!

  • Ten rivers carry 90% of our plastic waste into the ocean.
  • Eight of them are in Asia.
  • The Yangtze River in China carries almost 1.5 million tons of plastic to the ocean each year!
  • The remaining two are the Nile and the Niger, in Africa. Plastic waste is a global issue!
  • 90% of the trash in the ocean is made of plastic.
  • Every year, 25 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean.
  • Plastic bottles account for 6% of the ocean’s plastic.
  • One in three fish caught in the UK contains plastic due to its prevalence in the ocean.
  • Seafood fans will likely eat over 10,000 pieces of plastic every year.
  • Every square mile of the ocean contains over 45,000 pieces of plastic.
  • At the current rate, we’ll be pouring the equivalent of two garbage trucks of plastic into the ocean every day by 2030.
  • And that’ll double by 2050. Unless we do something about it.
  • And by then, there’ll be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

Plastic Waste

There’s no doubt we use a lot of plastic - and it causes unmeasurable harm to our planet and its ecosystems. But you might be shocked by how much of it goes to waste. It’s simply not worth it!

  • Half of all produced plastic is designed to be single-use. Built for the landfill.
  • Since plastic began to be produced on a mass scale in the 1950s, just 9% has been recycled. 12% has been burned, and the remaining 79% is in the landfills of the world.
  • Every single second, 1,500 plastic bottles are thrown away. Count to ten and imagine them piling up!
  • In the UK, almost 60% of bottles are being recycled - but that still leaves 5.5 billion going into landfills every year. We need to work towards 100% recycling!
  • And across the world, more than 90% of bottles aren’t recycled.
  • 3% of plastic waste in the USA doesn’t even make it to the landfill - it gets left as litter! If you see a bottle, pick it up!
  • We are creating around 300 million tons of plastic waste each year - the same weight as the entire human population. Do you need that much plastic?
  • Every beach in the world has plastic waste on it.
  • There are roughly 150 plastic bottles on every beach in the UK.
  • And on average, every square mile of beach in the world has 5000 pieces of plastic on it. Life’s a beach!

Plastic Waste Solution

We know this has been a downer - but knowledge allows you to pursue change. Hope is not lost - here are some uplifting facts to finish off with.

  • The country with the highest rate of bottle recycling is Norway. Be like Norway!
  • 92% of young Americans recycle as part of their daily lives.
  • Using a reusable water bottle can save 150 bottles every year.
  • If every American bought a refillable water bottle, we’d reduce our plastic bottle consumption by 4.5 billion a year. It’s a start!
  • Governments are taking action to reduce plastic waste. In the UK, 80% of people use fewer single-use plastic bags since a charge was introduced in 2015.
  • And across Europe, single-use plastic is being banned. In Scotland, everything from straws to plastic cutlery is prohibited in production and sales.
  • India banned single-use plastic on ships in 2019.
  • Buying bottled water isn’t the only way to get pure water - you can install a whole house water filter for a low cost.
  • A water filter on your kitchen sink could save hundreds of plastic bottles a year - and reduce your expenses too.
  • If you’re craving a Coke, opt for a can or glass bottle. If we persuaded Coke to ditch plastic, we’d reduce our consumption by 100 billion bottles each year.
  • Researchers at the University of Berkeley, California have discovered a fully compostable plastic!
  • This new material degrades by 98% in just a few days. Compared to hundreds of years for regular plastic, that’s progress!
  • In America, around 8.7% of plastic is recycled. Room for improvement!
  • Five US cities have banned plastic bags altogether - San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago and Boston.
  • That means nine million US citizens don’t use plastic bags on a daily basis. Progress!
  • Recycling saves energy! Recycling a single plastic bottle saves the equivalent energy to power a lightbulb for three hours.
  • Just five recycled plastic bottles can be used to insulate a ski jacket! Cosy!
  • One of the biggest ways to make an impact is by telling your friends and family about these shocking statistics. Every person you tell translates to hundreds of fewer plastic bottles!

Final Thoughts...

Our global obsession with plastic is unsustainable.

It’s causing catastrophic damage to our oceans, beaches and marine life.

The scale of the problem of plastic water bottle pollution is hard to grasp. Our human minds struggle to understand the difference between 100 million plastic bottles and 10 billion.

But when you visualize garbage trucks full of plastic dumping loads into our ocean, it’s immediately obvious it has to stop.

Fortunately, as individuals, we can make a difference. Finding ways to eradicate single-use plastics from our lives will drive down demand and force corporations to come up with sustainable ways of packaging their products.

And as the movement grows, governments sit up and take notice. That’s why cities, states and countries across the world are banning plastic bags and single-use plastic items such as cutlery and cups.

From our perspective, the relationship between water and plastic is problematic. We want the world to experience clean water, but without damaging our planet in the process.

That’s why water filters and reusable bottles are essential tools for a sustainable world.

In the United Kingdom, the term "plastic" is used to refer to a soccer fan who supports their team out of a superficial desire for glory. Plastic is contrasted with authenticity.

And when it comes to the environment, we need authentic action to change the flow of plastic consumption and waste. Don’t be a “plastic” - reduce, reuse and recycle, starting now.


  • Annual production of plastics worldwide from 1950 to 2020. Retrieved from Statista
  • Plastic waste in the UK - Statistics & Facts. Retrieved from Statista
  • Plastic waste in Europe - Statistics & Facts. Retrieved from Statista
  • Plastic Pollution. Retrieved from Our World In Data
  • Single-use plastics: the law is changing. Retrieved from ZeroWasteScotland
  • A third of the US has laws preventing plastic bans. Retrieved from Earth Day
  • Can Norway help us solve the plastic crisis, one bottle at a time?. Retrieved from TheGuardian
  • Davos 2020: People still want plastic bottles, says Coca-Cola. Retrieved from BBC

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