Man produced 8.3 billion tons of plastic (so far)

An unimaginable quantity that has mostly ended up in the environment and very little has been recycled. And its growth seems unstoppable

Think of a billion elephants, or, if you want, 80 million blue whales or 822,000 Eiffel Towers: if these representations are possible to imagine, each of them tells us the amount of plastic produced by man since it’s invention, which took place around the fifties of the last century.

According to a study published in Science Advances, the amount of plastic produced in about 60 years was 8 billion and 300 million tons.

To this conclusion came a group of researchers from the University of Georgia, the University of California and the Santa Barbara and Sea Education Association. The researchers analyzed the production, use and fate of the plastic that was made in this period.

WASTE AND RECYCLE. Of the amount of plastic produced over all these years, 2 billion tonnes are still used, while 6.3 billion tonnes have already become a waste: only 9% of them have been recycled, 12% Incinerated and 79% finished in the terrestrial and marine environment.

ALWAYS GROWING According to the researchers, by 2050, a production that will total approximately 12 billion tons will come. Plastic production in the Fifties did not exceed 2 million tons per year, but today it has reached 400 million tons annually.

“A large amount of plastic that man has produced is not biodegradable in any way, and that means that it will remain with us for centuries, if not for millennia, and this has to make us think of the way we use plastic and what we do once it is used, “said Jenna Jambeck, one of the scientists involved in the study.

The study has not simply stopped at global value, but has analyzed the amount of resins, fibers and additives used by industries and synthesized by type and consumption made in various industries.

PACKAGING. It turns out that plastic is mainly used to pack any kind of object and is thrown away as soon as the latter is discarded.

Roland Geyer, lead author of the article, explains: “With our work we wanted to create the basis for sustainable materials management. In a nutshell, we can not handle what is not measured and so we think that political and economic discussions on plastic usage will be more concrete from these results. ”

The researchers themselves published two years ago on Science, another study that calculated the amount of plastic that ends up in the sea and amounts to about 8 million tonnes per year. “It is true that today there are many people who were born when plastic was not yet invented,” said Gayer, “but today it has become indispensable. It is important, however, to understand where it really is and where we can use less of it. And above all, that it can be recycled in most cases. ”