The Brushbox Maths Quiz

You were probably hoping maths tests were a thing of the past. We’re here to show you how wrong you are.

But 15th October is World Maths Day, and at Brushbox, we think every day is worth celebrating – especially when they’re ones that are important to people (in this case, mathematicians everywhere!).

So how does an eco-friendly toothbrush subscription service celebrate World Maths Day? With eco-friendly, toothbrush-subscription related maths questions, of course! (Yeah, we know, it’s probably the worst pitch you’ve ever heard. But stick with it, it’s going to be better than it sounds. At least a little bit better.)

Q: In 1950, the world produced 2 million tonnes of plastic a year. In 2015, this number was 190.5 times bigger. How many tonnes of plastic was produced in 2015?

A: 381 million tonnes of plastic.

That’s right, the amount of plastic produced globally is now roughly the same as the mass of two-thirds of the world population. While many cynics who don’t want to abandon plastic say that the plastic war has come out of the blue, it’s the rapid production of plastic that’s the real shock, with hundreds of millions of tonnes of plastic left to litter landfill and oceans.

Q: A group of fifty volunteers go litter picking across a mile-long stretch of beach in the UK. Each of them collect one hundred pieces of litter. How many pieces of litter were found on the beach?

A: 5,000 pieces.

Approximately 5,000 items of marine plastic pollution have been found per mile of beach in the UK – and over 150 plastic bottles litter each mile of UK beaches. 100,000 marine mammals and turtles as well as 1 million sea birds are killed by marine plastic pollution annually. The effects of plastic pollution aren’t just that litter is an eyesore, but that it is having a devastating impact on the ecosystems where it’s littered.

Q: 9% of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled. 12% has been incinerated. What is the percentage of the remaining plastic?

A: 79%.

That leftover plastic has accumulated in landfills, dumps and the natural environment. For years, many of us have used products like water bottles, food wrappers and plastic bags without thinking about what happens to them when we’re finished with them. But that ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude is what’s got us in a mess – and we need to start holding ourselves accountable for the plastic we use.

Q: 20,000 plastic drinks bottles are bought globally every second. How many are bought a day?

A: 1,728,000,000.

That’s one billion, seven hundred and twenty-eight million, which is one of the biggest numbers we’ve ever written down. While (we hope) some of the people that purchase those bottles will reuse them as water bottles that they can refill on-the-go, most of these bottles will be discarded as soon as they’re used. In 2016, 480 billion plastic bottles were sold.

Q: Sarah bought a plastic bottle in 1992 and threw her litter in a nearby bush when she couldn’t find a bin. In 2442, her plastic bottle has just about biodegraded. How many years did the bottle take to biodegrade?

A: 450 years.

And even then, it’s likely that micro plastic particles will be left behind. And, even though something lasting for 450 years might seem like a cool-time-travel-magic story, this plastic bottle will be one of billions that pollute and damage the earth’s environment for hundreds of years to come.

How did you score? And what did you learn by using your maths skills to answer our questions?

Mathematicians and scientists are helping us to understand the plastic pollution problem by using equations far more complicated than the ones we’ve given (but we’re Brushbox, not brainboxes) to reflect, analyse and predict plastic pollution trends globally.

It’s important that we listen to their findings in order to know what our next steps should be. If we look at statistics and evidence, we have a better idea of what changes we need to make in order to combat the damage that plastic is having on our environment – and it looks like a first step is ditching plastic in order to go for environmentally-friendly alternatives.

We hope you enjoyed a Brushbox-style maths test more than your average sums! And, if we’ve got you wondering how you can ditch some of the plastic in your life, check out our bamboo toothbrushes at – you’ll never look at a plastic brush the same way.

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