Plastic Production Not Slowing Down
A team of scientists conducted the first ever global analysis of the production, use and fate of all plastic ever made. The results of the calculation made by the scientists from different American universities are astounding.
According to scientists from the University of Georgia, the University of California, Santa Barbara and Sea Education Association, humans have created 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics since large-scale production of the synthetic materials began in the early 1950s. One might wonder where are they now after a span of more than 70 years? The powerhouse of scientists have interesting answers to this query.
The team calculated that most of the plastic now resides in landfills or the natural environment, around 6.3 billion tons of waste. Of that waste total, only 9 percent was recycled, 12 percent was incinerated and 79 percent accumulated in landfills or the natural environment.
Talking about the future, the scientists made some predictions as well. If current trends continue, roughly 12 billion metric tons of plastic waste will be in landfills or the natural environment by 2050. Twelve billion metric tons is about 35,000 times as heavy as the Empire State Building.
The same team of researchers led this 2015 study published in the journal Science that calculated the magnitude of plastic waste going into the ocean. They estimated that 8 million metric tons of plastic entered the oceans in 2010.
The Worrying Implication
Knowing the fact that production of plastics is unstoppable, the scientists made some assertion of the need to give importance to waste management.
Jenna Jambeck, study co-author and associate professor of engineering at UGA, said, “Most plastics don’t biodegrade in any meaningful sense, so the plastic waste humans have generated could be with us for hundreds or even thousands of years. Our estimates underscore the need to think critically about the materials we use and our waste management practices.”
After the staggering estimates of the study, the researchers asserted that that they do not seek the total removal of plastic from the marketplace, but rather a more critical examination of plastic use and its end-of-life value.
Plastic Pollution is a Global Problem
Large scale use of plastics clearly contributes to pollution, harming marine life and other ecosystems. In fact, plastic pollution is a global problem. The majority of plastic winds up in landfills where it remains indefinitely. It is believed to take hundreds or even thousands of years.
Plastics pose a danger in the aquatic environment. In fact, it is estimated every square mile of ocean has 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in it. That is why over a million sea birds, whales, seals, dolphins, sea turtles, and so on die each year from plastic debris that ends up in oceans and seas.