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Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Since 1950s, 8.3 billion tons of plastics produced; 79% discarded into landfills and environment; only 9% recycled

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Posted: 19 Jul 2017 11:09 AM PDT  read full ScienceDaily article here

…The researchers found that by 2015, humans had generated 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics, 6.3 billion tons of which had already become waste. Of that waste total, only 9 percent was recycled, 12 percent was incinerated and 79 percent accumulated in landfills or the natural environment.

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.

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,” said Jenna Jambeck, study co-author and associate professor of engineering at UGA. “Our estimates underscore the need to think critically about the materials we use and our waste management practices.“…

They estimated that 8 million metric tons of plastic entered the oceans in 2010….

“Roughly half of all the steel we make goes into construction, so it will have decades of use — plastic is the opposite,” said Roland Geyer, lead author of the paper and associate professor in UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Management. “Half of all plastics become waste after four or fewer years of use.”

“I think we need to take a careful look at our expansive use of plastics and ask when the use of these materials does or does not make sense.” ….

Roland Geyer et al. Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made. Science Advances, July 2017 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1700782

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