Single Use Plastic Products

Posted by Urban Rain Systems

Single Use Plastic Products

22nd June 2018

Single Use Plastic Products

So I have wanted to talk about single use plastic products for a while now. We have had a few social media posts about single use plastics and their effect on the environment, but after an experience I had on Sunday, I felt now was the perfect time.

Before I get into Sunday’s experience let’s look at what single use plastics are.


“Single use plastics are used only once before they are thrown away or recycled.”


These are products like plastic straws, polystyrene cups, (plastic) grocery bags, food packaging, water and soft drink bottles and the list goes on and on and on. When you look around your home it is frightening to see just how many single use plastic products you use and discard daily.

So why are single use plastics so dangerous you may ask? Well, firstly the sheer volume of single use plastic products that are produced (both in units and tons) is astonishing. Globally we use 4 Trillion plastics bags annually!! Secondly, is the low percentage of these single use products which actually ends up being recycled. Roughly 1% of the 4 trillion plastic bags that are used annually are returned for recycling.


Let’s go into a few facts to really get your attention:

  • As stated above, we use around 4 TRILLION plastics bags every year. With only 1% being return for recycling.
  • The average plastic bag is only utilized for around 15 minutes.
  • 500 000 straws are used each day.
  • The Great Pacific Garbage patch is roughly three times the size of France!
  • There are estimates of more than 15 TRILLION bits of plastic floating around the oceans.
  • We currently recover (recycle) around 10% of all plastic we produce.
  • World wide we buy about 1 MILLION plastic bottles per minute.


And now to my Sunday story. Last weekend, I went into a well known book store in Bedfordview. Just browsing, not looking for anything in particular. I then came across the June edition of, “National Geographic” (pictured above). I had of course seen it featured in many social media posts. The main feature article focuses on single use plastics and ocean pollution, so I (quite excitedly) grabbed a copy.

At the checkout counter, the cashier rung up the book and asked me if I would like a plastic bag. Without skipping a beat I said… “Yes, please.” I paid the bill and walked out with my purchase. As I stepped out of the shop I realized what I had done. I just bought a well know publication, with a feature article on the dangers of single use plastics (such as plastics bags) and my first reaction was to ask for, you guessed it, a plastic bag!!

So why am I telling you this? How can someone who is actively involved in water conservation, someone who is knowledgeable in the field of polymers and the effects of single use plastics, make such a rookie mistake…?

Well, in one word “HABIT”.

We are all in the habit of asking for plastic grocery bags, straws and Styrofoam drinking cups. We are all in the habit of buying our meat in Styrofoam trays wrapped in cling wrap, our fruit and veggies in plastic bags and our water in PET plastic bottles.


So what can we do to break the habit? Well National Geographic suggests the following 6 things you can do:

  1. Give up plastic bags by taking your own reusable (material) bags to the store.
  2. Skips straws. Metal, glass and even paper straws are becoming quite trendy.
  3. Pass up plastic bottles. Buy a glass or metal reusable bottle.
  4. Avoid plastic packaging. Buying in bulk is a good way to decrease the amount of plastic packaging we use.
  5. Recycle what you can. Urban Rain will be looking into recycling plants in South Africa. We will pass on all the information in upcoming posts.
  6. Don’t litter! The statistics on litter reaching our oceans is frightening.


None of us are perfect and we all waste water, we all litter, and we all use single use plastics irresponsibly from time to time. All I ask that you try… everyday… to reduce your wastage, with both water and single use plastics.

I would like to leave you with a quote we found while researching single use plastics:


“What difference is one plastic bottle going to make?


Said 7 billion people”



Information sources:

National Geographic, June edition

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