The Green Living Guy

Plastic Study Waste: National Geographic did a story on recycled plastic. Yet or the lack thereof.

First off, MASS PRODUCTION OF plastics began just six decades ago. However it has accelerated so rapidly that it has created 8.3 billion metric tons of it. In addition, most of it in disposable products that end up as trash. If that seems like an incomprehensible measure, it is. Even the scientists set out to conduct the world’s first tally. Yes of how much plastic being produced, discarded, burned or put in landfills. Thereby they are horrified by the sheer size of the numbers.

“We all knew there was a rapid and extreme increase in plastic production from 1950 until now, but actually quantifying the cumulative number for all plastic ever made was quite shocking,” says Jenna Jambeck, a University of Georgia environmental engineer who specializes in studying plastic waste in the oceans.

“This kind of increase would ‘break’ any system that was not ready for it, and this is why we have seen leakage from global waste systems into the oceans,” she says.

Plastic Study Waste Takes Forever To Degrade

Most inportantly, Plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade. So most of it still exists in some form. Worst part is only 12 percent is incinerated.

The study launching two years ago as scientists tried to get a handle on the gargantuan amount of plastic that ends up in the seas and the harm it is causing to birds, marine animals, and fish. The prediction that by mid-century, the oceans will contain more plastic waste than fish, ton for ton, has become one of the most-quoted statistics and a rallying cry to do something about it.

She arrived a tourist. The island’s beauty inspired her to become its sole nun.

You can’t manage what you don’t measure

The new study, published Wednesday in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances. It is the first global analysis of all plastics ever made—and their fate. Of the 8.3 billion metric tons that is produced, 6.3 billion metric tons has become plastic waste. Of that, only nine percent gets over to recycling. The vast majority—79 percent—is accumulating in landfills or sloughing off. Off in the natural environment as litter. Meaning: at some point, much of it ends up in the oceans, the final sink.

If present trends continue, by 2050, there will be 12 billion metric tons of plastic in landfills. That amount is 35,000 times as heavy as the Empire State Building. (Learn about one possible future solution.)Plastic pollution. 80 Percent of what most people throw away can be recycled!!

80 Percent of what most people throw away can be recycled!!

Roland Geyer, is the study’s lead author. He says the team of scientists are trying to create a foundation for better managing plastic products. “You can’t manage what you don’t measure,” he says. “It’s not just that we make a lot, it’s that we also make more, year after year.”

Half the resins and fibers used in plastics producing in the last 13 years, the study found. China alone accounts for 28 percent of global resin and 68 percent of polyester polyamide and acrylic fibers.

Geyer, an engineer by training, specializes in industrial ecology as a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has studied various metals and how they’re used and managed. The rapid acceleration of plastic manufacturing, which so far has doubled roughly every 15 years, has outpaced nearly every other synthetic material. And, it is unlike almost every other material. Half of all steel produced, such as, using in construction, with a decades-long lifespan. As well, only half of all plastic manufactured becomes trash in less than a year, the study found.


Much of the growth in plastic production has been the increased use of plastic packaging, which accounts for more than 40 percent of non-fiber plastic.

Tallying plastic waste around the globe

The same team, led by Jambeck, produced the first study. The one that assessed the amount of plastic trash flows into the oceans. That research, published in 2015, estimated that 8 million metric tons of plastic ends up in the oceans every year. That is the equal to five grocery bags of plastic trash for every foot of coastline around the globe.

“We weren’t aware of the implications for plastic ending up in our environment until it was already there,” Jambeck says. “Now we have a situation where we have to come from behind to catch up.”

In addition, gaining control of plastic waste is now such a large task. One that it calls for a comprehensive and yes a global approach, Jambeck says, that involves rethinking plastic chemistry. In addition, product design, recycling strategies, and consumer use. The United States ranks behind Europe (30 percent) and China (25 percent) in recycling, the study found. Recycling in the U.S. has remained at nine percent since 2012.

This story was first published on July 19, 2017 and updated on December 20, 2018 with the news of the Royal Statistical Society’s recognition.

In conclusion, National Geographic is committing to reducing plastics pollution. Learn more about our non-profit activities at This story is part of Planet or Plastic?

Furthermore, its our multiyear effort to raise awareness about the global plastic waste crisis. Finally, please learn what you can do to cut your own single-use plastics. More noteworthy, take your pledge.

Laura Parker is a staff writer who specializes in covering climate change and marine environments.

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