Staggering Plastic Statistics

The Sierra Club magazine has an article this month titled Beyond the Barrel: Can we really get off oil in 20 years? This article focuses on specific ways our country can break it’s “addiction” to “19.64 million barrels per day.” A staggering number, no?

There are some mouth-dropping statistics quoted throughout the article that I will highlight here, but I highly recommend you take a quick click over to the original article at the Sierra Club magazine’s site for the photos. This article features 3 different photographs taken by Chris Jordan. The first, called “Oil Barrels,” is a beautiful and disturbing photo of 28,000 42 gallon barrels of oil, which is the amount we consume in the United States every two minutes. The second photo is called “Plastic Bottles” and here, Jordan has captured 2 million plastic bottles — we, in the U.S., go through this many every five minutes and only 1 in 4 gets recycled. The third, and final, photo is called “Plastic Bags.” Jordan has photographed 60,000 plastic bags. Get ready to cringe — we go through these every five seconds.

Am I trying to shock you with these numbers? Yes!

I was shocked and am more committed than ever to finally remembering those reusable bags I’m always forgetting to take into the grocery store. This isn’t about guilt. It’s about being aware that oil dependency isn’t just about government policy and oil companies wanting to fatten their profits. It’s about the choices we make every day. Plastic comes from oil. So every time each one of us buys water in a plastic bottle, we become a part of that 1.5 million barrels of oil it takes to create the amount of bottled water this country consumes in a year.

Yes, we need better policies. Yes, the government could make it easier for green technology to succeed. But oil companies are rich beyond measure for a reason: someone’s buying their wares.

If you’re reading this blog, I’m assuming you’re at least somewhat knowledgeable about environmental issues. You’ve probably heard over and over again the standard tips: drive less, turn down your thermostat, reduce your consumption (of stuff, of plastic, of water). Sometimes we can hear things so much that we forget there are reasons why the old stand-bys exist. There are numbers behind them, and like words, numbers have consequences, too.

Tips are great and can be useful. But every now and then, it’s important to step back and look at why. Often, the reason is more staggering than we realized.

Photo Credit: elycefeliz