Humans have created more than 8 billion metric tons of plastic since the production of synthetic materials began in the early 1950s. It’s enough to cover the entire country of Argentina, and most of the material now resides in landfills or in the natural environment.
According to UC Santa Barbara provides the first global analysis of the production, use and fate of all plastics ever made.
Lead author Roland Geyer, said, the study delivers hard data not only for how much plastic we’ve made over the years, but also its composition and the amount and kind of additives that plastic contains.
Geyer and his team compiled production statistics for resins, fibers and additives from a variety of industry sources and synthesized according to type and consuming sector. They found that global production of plastic resins and fibers increased from 2 million metric tons in 1950 to more than 400 million metric tons in 2015, outgrowing most other man-made materials. Notable exceptions are steel and cement. While, these materials used primarily for construction, used once and then discarded.
The pace of plastic production shows no signs of slowing. The amount of plastic resins and fibers produced from 1950 to 2015, roughly half was produced in the last 13 years.
The researchers also found that by 2015, humans had produced 6.3 billion tons of plastic waste. If it continues, 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.
Two years ago, the same research team measured the magnitude of plastic waste going into the ocean. They found 275 million metric tons of plastic waste generated in 2010, an estimated 8 million entered the world’s oceans.
That study calculated the annual amount of plastic waste by using solid waste generation data. The new research instead uses plastic production data.
More information: [ScienceAdvances]