An article published on July 19, 2017 in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances reported on production, use, and end-of-life fate of mass-produced plastics. Roland Geyer and colleagues from the University of California, Santa Barbara, the University of Georgia, and the Sea Education Association, all U.S., compiled data on “polymer resins, synthetic fibers, and additives into a comprehensive material flow model.” According to the authors’ estimations, 8,300 million metric tons of virgin plastics have been produced until now. “Plastics’ largest market is packaging, an application whose growth was accelerated by a global shift from reusable to single-use containers,” the authors explained. By 2015, about 6,300 million metric tons of plastic waste had been generated as a result. Around 9% of that waste was recycled, 12% was incinerated, and 79% accumulated in landfills or the natural environment. The authors further estimated that approximately 12,000 million metric tons of plastic waste will end up in landfills or the natural environment by 2050 if current plastic production and waste management trends continue.
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Geyer, R. et al. (2017). “Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made.” Science Advances (published July 19, 2017).