It is hard to imagine now, but plastic has only been industrially produced since the 50s. Throughout the past 70 years, its manufacture has been growing faster than that of any other material, except for steel and concrete. According to a new report by a research team from the University of California in Santa Barbara, of the roughly 6 billion tonnes of plastic ever made, around 80 per cent now reside in landfills or in the environment. Researchers also took into account various types of plastic and their composition. Unlike steel and cement, which retain their utility for decades, most of the plastic is discarded within a couple of years, months, or even days, as in the case of packaging. According to the team leader, the industrial ecologist Roland Geyer, if the current trend continutes, by 2050 the amount of plastic in the environment will double. And while plastic cannot be eliminated from industrial and day-to-day use, the researchers call upon us all to think more critically about how we use it – after all, it takes hundreds of years to biodegrade.
You can read the underlying report here: advances.sciencemag.org