The term refers to products that are made primarily from fossil fuel–based chemicals (petrochemicals) and are designed to be disposed of right after use. Single use plastics are most commonly used for packaging and serviceware, such as bottles, wrappers, straws, and bags.  Such products are widely used with 1,000,000 plastic bottles produced per minute.

The problem is not with the manufacturing of these products but with their disposal.  Only about 23% of plastic bottles are recycled within the U.S..  Americans throw away 100 billion plastic bags annually, equivalent to 307 bags per person, and and many of these plastics end up on beaches and in the surface waters of the world.







Instead of using and disposing of the plastic object, the solution to the problem is to reuse the plastic for other purposes or products.  Used plastic has been used for backpacks, shoes, furniture and even fuel.  This concept of reusing instead of discarding is the basis for the circular economy.

Some further ideas to explore on Single Use Plastics:

Identify each plastic product that you use that is thrown away after one usage.

Select one of the plastic products you use and determine if there is an alternative non-plastic product that you could substitute.

Of all the plastic products that you use for one time, determine which are being recycled and which sent to a landfill.


Earth Day, Fact sheet: Single Use Plastics 29 March 2018).

Lyndsey Matthews, “Single-Use Plastics Will Be Banned in Europe by 2021,” Microsoft News (6 June 2020).

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Single-Use Plastics 101

European Commission, Single-use plastics  (28 March 2018).

Reuse Plastics, Remaking the future of plastic


Previous articleNitrous Oxide Emissions Next articleInfrastructure

No comments yet, add your own below

Comments are closed.