NEW Global study shows the production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made

A new global study published yesterday broke new ground by presenting the first global analysis of all mass-produced plastic ever manufactured. Study authors Roland Geyer, Jenna R. Jambeck, and Kara Lavender Law estimated that 8,300 million metric tons of plastics have been produced to date and the vast majority has ended up in our environment.  

Main points of the new research include:

  • About 91 percent of plastic isn't recycled, and only 12 percent has been incinerated 

  • 79 percent of plastic went into landfills or the natural environment

  • Plastics’ largest market is packaging, an application whose growth was accelerated by a global shift from reusable to single-use containers. 

  • Most of the monomers used to make plastics, such as ethylene and propylene, are derived from fossil hydrocarbons. None of the commonly used plastics are biodegradable.

  • In 2015, the world created 448 million tons of plastic — more than twice as much as made in 1998.

  • If current production and waste management trends continue, roughly 12,000 metric tons of plastic waste will be in landfills or in the natural environment by 2050.

One of the study authors, Jenna Jambeck, a University of Georgia environmental engineer who specializes in studying plastic waste in the oceans, was surprised by the sheer quantity of plastic pollution. “We all knew there was a rapid and extreme increase in plastic production from 1950 until now, but actually quantifying the cumulative number for all plastic ever made was quite shocking,” she said to National Geographic.

Roland Geyer, an industrial ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the lead author of the study, told The San Francisco Chronicle: "At the current rate, we are really heading toward a plastic planet. It is something we need to pay attention to."

Read the the full article 'Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made.'

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