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Key Fact

  • 40% of demand for plastic comes from single-use products
  • Only 9% of plastic is recycled.

Plastic pollution is one of our biggest environmental challenges.  

Why do we use plastic in the food system? 

  • Plastic is long-lasting and cheap 
  • It has many important uses throughout the food system, from farming to wrapping vegetables on shop shelves  
  • 40% of the demand for plastic comes from single-use products. Bottled water can be essential to saving lives in places where the water isn’t safe to drink, but single-use packaging has also become an unnecessary part of our expectation for constant convenience.   

Where does plastic go once we’ve used it and why does this matter?  

  • Our recycling systems can’t cope with the volume of plastic we’re using. Wealthy countries ship plastic across oceans to be sorted and recycled 
    • This impacts on poorer communities  
    • Piles of mismanaged waste cause landslides, the spread of disease and toxic air pollution from burning waste  
  • A third of all plastic waste ends up in soils or freshwater  
  • 46% of the plastic in the Pacific Ocean garbage patch comes from the fishing industry 
  • Microplastics have entered the food chain – we ingest up to 5g of microplastics each week (about the size of a credit card!)  

As citizens, we’ve called for bans on straws and bags, and we’ve tried to reuse plastic where possible. But further change is necessary to protect our planet and our health – what else should we be asking our governments to do?  


Huiyu Ouyang

Huiyu Ouyang, 26, China

I want to champion my country’s economic success into growing a healthy society with healthy eating habits; enabling and motivating more young people to act for positive change.

Huiyu is youth activist and has led student networks to campaign for change. He is involved in food policy and biodiversity, now editing a handbook on well-being, ecology and transformation. Read more about Huiyu on Act4Food.