Health Care

1 ton of plastic produced for every person on planet, scientists reveal

1 ton of plastic produced for every person on planet, scientists reveal”

Humans have created more than eight billion tonnes of plastics in the past 65 years, and most of it still exists in rubbish tips, in the sea and strewn about the landscape, according to new worldwide research.

Global production of plastic has grown rapidly in recent decades, surpassing many other man-made materials. And over the next 30 years, we may produce four times more plastic waste than we ever did, a new study shows.

"America's plastics makers welcome this new look at global production, use, and management of used plastics, and we look forward to continuing discussions on why plastics use is growing and how these advanced materials contribute to our safety, health and quality of life". Much of it ends up in the soil, in smaller particles, or in the ocean, or in our water. Only 9 percent of the world's plastic has been recycled.

"There is much more attention paid to how plastics are interacting with marine organisms but there is much, much less known about how plastics interact with terrestrial organisms - I would suspect there is something equivalent going on and it might actually be worse".

For specialists, if these current trends continue, roughly 12 billion metric tonnes of plastic waste will be in landfills or in what the study describes as the natural environment by 2050.

The report said that an emerging technology, pyrolysis, breaks plastic back into the oil it was made of, but this has to date destroyed a negligible amount of plastic compared to incineration - which varies in its environmental friendliness.

What Are We Making With All That Plastic?

The US researchers found that around half of all the plastic fabricated between 1950 and 2015 was produced in just the last 13 years.

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The researchers also found that by 2015, humans had produced 6.3 billon tons of plastic waste.

As a result, the share of plastics in city dumps in high and middle income countries rose to more than 10 percent by 2005 from less than 1 percent in 1960.

Plastic is a cheap, hardy and versatile material, and it's used in everything from medical equipment to parts of airplanes to the fibers in our clothing.

"We are increasingly smothering ecosystems in plastic and I am very anxious that there may be all kinds of unintended, adverse consequences that we will only find out about once it is too late", said Roland Geyer, from the University of California and Santa Barbara, who led the project.

"Although the first synthetic plastics ... appeared in the early 20th century, widespread use of plastics outside of the military did not occur until after World War II", the study says.

Geyer said: "What we are trying to do is to create the foundation for sustainable materials management".

Landfills are full of plastics that have not been recycled. But due to their longer useful lifetimes, only 12 million metric tons, or 5 percent, of waste was created by construction. The United States recycles just nine per cent of its plastic, a figure that has not gone up since 2012. "But plastics have become so ubiquitous that you can't go anywhere without finding plastic waste in our environment, including our oceans". Only about 2 billion tons of the products are still in use, writes Fears for the Washington Post.

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