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Humans Have Produced Whopping 9 Billion Tons of Plastic

Humans Have Produced Whopping 9 Billion Tons of Plastic

Global production of plastics increased annually from two million metric tons in 1950 to over 400 million metric tons in 2015, according to the study, outgrowing most other man-made materials.

The scientists compiled production statistics for resins, fibres and additives from a range of industry sources, drawing a distinction between plastics and materials used extensively in construction, such as steel and cement.

If current production, use and waste management trends continue, the study projects the total amount of plastic dumped in landfill or polluting the natural environments by 2050 will be 12 billion tonnes - though the paper does note that a material flow analysis of this kind requires multiple assumptions or simplifications, so projections are subject to uncertainty and can not necessarily be regarded as solid predictions. Professor Roland Geyer has been quantifying our production and consumption of plastic over the decades and has shown that of the vast plastic waste we create; only 9% has been recycled. And scientists have warned that plastic bottles and other packaging are overrunning some of the UK's most handsome beaches and remote coastline, endangering wildlife from basking sharks to puffins. Part of the problem is that what makes plastic useful also makes it risky; since it never rots and is hard to destroy compared to glass, ceramic, or cardboard, it makes great packaging. "I don't think that's going to be the picture". If current trends continue, Geyer noted, roughly 12 billion metric tons of plastic waste - weighing more than 36,000 Empire State Buildings - will be in landfills or the natural environment by 2050.

"Plastics are used because they are efficient, they are cost effective and they do their jobs", said Russell, "And if we didn't have them, the impact on the environment would be worse".

She added: "We know that incentives such as bottle deposit return systems significantly reduce the amount of plastic ending up in landfill and beaches".

Of the total amount of produced from 1950 to 2015, roughly half was manufactured in just the last 13 years.

Plastics will likely be a part of our lives for as long as human civilization is able to produce them, and the authors seem well aware of this, advocating instead for sensible strategies to deal with the millions of tons of plastic spilling out into the environment.

Additionally, a separate study argues that there may be much as 70 million tons of plastic waste on the sea floor. They are used in packaging like plastic bottles and consumer goods like cellphones and refrigerators.

An overwhelming majority of packaging plastics are acquired and discarded within the same year.

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While China, the US and Europe produce the most plastic, the U.S.is the worst out of the three when it comest to recycling, Roland Geyer, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, also told USA Today.

Setting aside the low rate of recycling found in plastic production, another major problem is its short lifespan.

It's the versatility and durability of plastic which has seen its mass-production expand so greatly, but the study explains it's these same strengths which make it so hard for the material to biodegrade. Part of this trend is because almost half of polymer plastics becomes packaging material.

Mechanical separation of plastic for recycling. The second-largest use is for construction, at about 20 percent.

In 2014, 30 percent of plastic waste was recycled in Europe, and 25 percent recycled in China.

A recent study found evidence that plastic was making its way into the Arctic Ocean.

The Daily Mail is campaigning to end the scourge of plastic dumped in the environment.

"Our estimates underscore the need to think critically about the materials we use and our waste management practices". Geyer said his figures are higher than other calculations because he includes plastics material woven into fibers like polyester clothing, including microfiber material.

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