What are single use plastics?

What are single use plastics?

Single use plastics are plastic items that are designed to be used just once. Things like food packaging, straws and water bottles are all single use items. Around half the plastic thrown away is single use, although hopefully this percentage is dropping as the use of reusable drinking bottles and straws becomes more common

Image of single use plastic bottles and straws on a beach

Did you know it can take up to 400 years for plastics to breakdown? Even as they are breaking down plastics don’t just disappear. Animals can get trapped and tangled up in them or mistake them for food and try to eat them. Even biodegradable plastics can take 100s of years to break down completely.

Did you know plastic has even been found in the Mariana Trench? The Mariana Trench is the deepest point on Earth so this is VERY bad news.

When small pieces of plastic are eaten by fish and other animals, they build up in the fish which are then eaten by humans potentially causing all kinds of health problems.

Turtle with a plastic bag in its mouth

Plastics from clothes

Did you know that clothes made from polyester, nylon, acrylic and other man made materials often contain plastic? When you wash them tiny microfibres of plastic come off the clothes and can eventually end up in the sea where they make their way into the food chain.

This process of toxins and chemicals from plastic building up in animal tissue is called bio-accumulation.

More about pollution and plastics

Learn more about pollution with my ideas for teaching kids about pollution.

Take the plastic pledge to find out how you can save the planet from plastic!

Plastic pledge list in colour

Activity ideas for learning about plastic

Design a device to fit in a washing machine to catch pesky plastic microfibres.

Create a device for trapping plastic in the ocean. This could be some kind of net, perhaps self propelled to move around the surface of the sea.

Ocean rubbish collecting machine STEM Challenge template

Build a new useful product from single use plastic items. Perhaps turn a water bottle into a plant pot or watering can, use old food packaging as storage for stationary or other items or create a piece of art!

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