Fantastic Plastic Facts

Plastics have become an important part of our everyday lives - in our clothing, the pen that we write with, the chair that we sit on or food wrapping. Its hard to believe that plastic has been commonly available for the last one hundred years.

  • The word plastic comes from the Greek word "plasticos" which means to be shaped or moulded by heat.
  • Naturally occuring plastic materials can be found in the forms of animal bones, horns, fossilised resin from pine trees (amber), sap from various tropical trees and wax from bees.  Some of these 'polymers' are still in use today.
Source: Plastics Historical Society
  • Each New Zealand consumes approximately 31 kg of plastic packaging per year and recycled 5.58kg (2002).
  • Plastics can be recycled into 'plastic lumber'. Thus plastic is recycled into seats for park bences, 'wood' for fence palings etc.
  • Modern packaging techniques have reduced food spoilage and loss to as littles as 2%.
  • The New Zealand plastics industry generates a turnover of $1.8 billion a year and employs more than 8,000 people.
Source: Plastics New Zealand
  • Recycling a single plastic bottle can conserve enough energy to light a 60W bulb for up to 6 hours.
  • It takes about 450 years just for one plastic bottle to break down in the ground.
  • It takes about 25 recycled plastic drink bottles to make one fleece jacket.
Source: South Lakeland Recycling (UK)
  • Every year 4 million New Zealanders use 1 billion plastic shopping bags.
  • A person's use of a plastic check-out bag can be counted in minutes - however long it takes them to get from the shops to their homes.
  • In the marine environment plastic bag litter is lethal, killing at least 100,000 birds, whales, seals and turtles every year.
  • Over 40,000 plastic check-out bags are dumped in landfills every hour in New Zealand.
Source: Plastic Bag-Free New Zealand