Single use plastic – why is it so bad?

4 Feb 2021 • 4 minute read

We’ve all seen the news stories about the threat that single use plastic poses to our environment: It’s becoming increasingly clear that we need to reduce our consumption of plastic in order to create a better future for us and the generations to come.

As a result, businesses are working hard to help consumers ditch plastics in place of more sustainable solutions that we can reuse and recycle. 

Removing plastic bags, switching to plastic free gift cards and banning plastic straws are just some of the ways that businesses have been doing their bit towards the fight against plastic pollution.

Why is single use plastic so bad?

We believe that the more informed individuals and brands are about the detrimental impact of single use plastic, the more you’ll want to scrap them in favour of sustainable alternatives. Here are just 6 of many reasons why single use plastic is bad for both people and the planet. 

Most single use plastics are non-recyclable 

Although certain plastics can be recycled, historically this wasn’t always the case. Some plastics is recyclable but not easily due to the lack of a centralised system in the UK. Even today, the vast majority of plastics that we interact with on a daily basis cannot be recycled. According to the National Geographic, only 9 percent of the all  plastic ever produced has been recycled. They also reported that in 2018 there was around 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste clogging up landfills and polluting our oceans.

Every year, we contribute a further 300 million tons of plastic pollution.

Single use plastics are a major culprit in these statistics. Not only are some plastics unable to be recycled; in some cases, where plastics could be recycled, local councils didn’t have the facilities or funding required to accept them at recycling stations.

This is slowly improving and there is a large global industry emerging to recycle plastics. That being said, switching to alternative, sustainable materials will provide a much quicker solution to plastic pollution.

Plastic is not biodegradable 

All that discarded single use plastic, ranging from water bottles to plastic straws, ultimately ends up in landfills.

Plastic does not break down over time; it is not biodegradable. Therefore, it ends up staying on our planet for hundreds of years. In fact, a single plastic straw takes at least 200 years to decompose whilst a standard drinking bottle takes at least 450 years. But even after all those years, these plastics do not fully break down and they still exist as microplastic particles.

David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II, highlighted just how huge the problem is as producers found plastic in every ocean they visited, including a remote island just north of Antarctica.

Fortunately, socially conscious businesses are developing innovative solutions to find a way to replace plastic materials, or at least find ways to recycle and reuse plastic products. From biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes to our compostable paperboard environmentally friendly gift card, we are all (individuals and businesses alike) gradually reducing the demand for single use plastic production.

Plastic pollution threatens our oceans and other wildlife habitats 

As single use plastics mount up in landfills and spill into our oceans, it is wildlife and their ecosystems that suffer the most. Those microplastic particles we mentioned previously are released into the soil at landfill sites, releasing harmful toxins and leading to contamination. This is exacerbated when plastics are tossed without being thoroughly washed in advance. 

Sadly, it doesn’t stop there. Particularly in developing countries, where there is a lack of waste management infrastructure, plastics are either tipped into rivers intentionally or, in other cases, the wind blows them there. As the plastic drifts through the waterways (polluting the water at the same time) they eventually end up in the ocean. You’ll have seen the heart-breaking reports showing turtles, seahorses and other aquatic creatures getting tangled amongst the plastic and whales with stomachs full of plastic pollution. 

At present, there is thought to be around 150 million tons of plastic floating in the ocean. And the rate we’re currently going out, around eight million additional tons are added each year. The Ocean Conservancy predicts that, unless we act now, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans.

Single use plastics generate a high carbon footprint

We put a lot of emphasis on the plastic pollution that results after a single use plastic has served its purpose. But this isn’t the only problem. The production of single use plastics generates a staggering carbon footprint. Plastics are created using fossil fuels which means that these materials are one of the most energy-intensive materials in modern-day manufacturing.

Sustainable, environmentally friendly alternatives to plastic contribute significantly fewer carbon emissions. Take for example our green gift cards. In comparison with a single PVC gift card which typically produces 21 grams of carbon during production, our biodegradable plastic free gift card has an output of 0.66 grams.

That’s just one product of many that can be switched out from plastic to more sustainable materials.

Plastic ends up on our own plates

You would never expect to find plastic in your dinner, would you? But unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening. 

Microplastics are spread across our planet through our oceans and are then ingested by sea creatures.

Those of us who eat seafood, will then consume those same particles.

Studies have discovered microplastics in fish from both oceans and rivers. One study last year determined that 100 percent of the two fish species examined had ingested microplastics.

At this stage, the full picture of the health risks of consuming microplastics is unknown. Early research suggests that it may disrupt the endocrine system, affect brain health and possibly increase the risk of cancer and heart attack.

Single use plastics are not sustainable 

All of the reasons we have listed above make it clear that single use plastic is not sustainable. It’s neither recyclable nor biodegradable and it compromises our wildlife, environment as well as local communities. The clue is in the name - most of the products that are made from single use plastic are used only once before they are thrown away. 

However, there is hope for the future. Bans and charges on single use plastics are being rolled out worldwide to decrease demand. As a result, businesses are under pressure to implement low impact methods and switch to environmentally friendly alternatives.

Make the switch today

As we turn to recyclable, biodegradable and reusable solutions, we can make a difference and offset the climate emergency. The best way to combat plastic pollution is to reduce the demand for its production. 

As more of us make socially conscious decisions, the more chance our environment and wildlife have of recovering. Choosing to purchase an environmentally friendly gift card, a non- plastic bag for life or a reusable drinking bottle is a small step that makes a big difference.

If you want to make the switch, get in touch with us here at Green Gift Cards. Our paperboard cards are not only compostable and recyclable but also sustainable sourced reducing the impact on the environment from conception to purchase, and even throughout the life of the product.

 Give us a call on 01794 725 454 or get in touch today. We’re here to help you make the change and help in the fight against plastic pollution.  





Compostable and recyclable



Save up to 40% compared to plastic



Turnaround average 20 working days

Introducing our range of plastic-free cards

Since 2006 we have been innovating and disrupting in the card market to develop what is a leading range of environmentally-friendly card solutions. So what sets us apart?

Well that’s the thing, there’s a number of reasons why Green Gift Cards are renowned in the world of card production. It is the material we use for our cards and the certification that the cards come with. It is also the compelling environmental story (we urge you to watch the video) that is behind all of our cards and the fact that, once finished with, our cards are compostable and can be recycled in normal household waste streams. Oh and we’ll say it again – being environmentally-friendly doesn’t mean they are more expensive. In fact they offer great value compared to plastic cards.

Request a callback

If you would like to talk to us about your next card order or would like to know more about what makes our products so unique, call us on 01794 725 454 or request a call back.

Thank you, we'll be in touch soon

White paper

Read our latest white paper to find out one simple change organisations can implement today to help tackle the issue of single and limited use plastic.


Request a sample pack

If you would like to actually feel and see the quality of our Green Gift Card, we will happily send you some samples.

Request Samples


We work closely with some of the biggest and best in their field to bring you market leading environmental solutions for your cards. Learn more about our partners.