Plastic trash tops 6bn tonnes - and rising

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Plastic trash tops 6bn tonnes - and rising

They found that annual global production of plastics skyrocketed, from two million metric tonnes in 1950 to a jaw-dropping 400 million metric tonnes in 2015.

While plastic used in packaging is usually short term - typically less than a year - plastics used in construction and building can last decades.

Study co-author Doctor Jenna Jambeck, an associate professor of engineering at the University of Georgia in the USA, said: "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".

"Our estimate of eight million metric tonnes going into the oceans in 2010 is equivalent to five grocery bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world", said Jenna Jambeck, co-author of both studies, in a statement at the time.

"Hopefully, everyone who reads this article will come away with the same idea, that we need to change the way we make use of and manage plastics", he said. If current trends continue, it is predicted that approximately 12 billion tonnes of plastic will be discarded in landfills or the natural environment by 2050. But then, Geyer said the researchers chose to include plastic fibers used in textiles, such as in fleece and polyester, which are used to make clothing, carpets, curtains and furniture. Plastics are devilishly hard to get rid of, so much so that most just end up degrading into smaller and smaller pieces.

A new study has calculated how much plastic humanity has produced since the 1950s and there's a lot of it.

As people around the world become more well off, they'll start to use more plastics - and our waste management systems might not be able to keep up, he said.

It runs beach clean-ups around the United Kingdom and said the most common single-use plastics found on beaches included: plastic bottles, coffee cups and lids, plastic cutlery, straws, plastic stirrers and food packaging.

Plastic is, of course, very useful.

In the first global study on the history of mass-produced plastics, researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara, also found that half of the Earth's plastic was produced in the past 13 years alone.

Originally, the researchers compiled numbers for plastics that people use in everyday situations, such as packaging, household items, vehicle parts, electronics and other common products.

In the study, the researchers describe how plastic production has been accelerating rapidly in recent years. The second-largest use is for construction, at about 20 percent.

Only 9 percent of plastics are thought to be recycled.

Nine billion tons is one of those numbers that's tricky to wrap a human brain around. In developed countries, the environmental and health impacts of waste incineration rely on the incinerator design and emissions technologies. The team also found less than 10 percent of plastic waste is recycled in the U.S.

To develop a truly comprehensive waste management plan, Hoornweg said communities need strategies to address and track other waste too, such as metals and hazardous materials.

Since nearly all plastic is non-biodegradable, these materials could "be with us for hundreds of years", languishing in landfills or floating in our seas, Geyer told NPR.

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