August 10 2017

Scientists reveal total amount of plastic ever produced

The importance of recycling plastic and the huge challenges that we face in doing enough of it have been highlighted by a new paper written for the US-based Science Advances journal.

The report, entitled ‘Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made’ and principally authored by Dr Roland Geyer, was a major piece of research which concluded that the total amount of plastic created since mass-production began in the 1950s is an incredible 8.3 billion tonnes.

Worryingly, the study also revealed that – whilst rates of recycling are on the rise globally – around 70% of all plastic ever made is currently located in ‘waste streams’, either at landfill or in the wider environment (including the sea).

Dr Geyer’s research (discussed in more detail in this BBC article) was not prescriptive in its approach, and the University of California -based industrial ecologist noted that this was entirely deliberate: “Our idea was to put the numbers out there without us telling the world what [it] should be doing, but really just to start a real, concerted discussion.”

US recycles just 9% of its plastic


waste recruitment

A number of extraordinary statistics were gathered and published by the report in relation to the historic and current use of plastic, with some of the most eye-catching including:

  • Europe recycled 30% of its plastic used in 2014, compared to 25% in China and just 9% in the US.
  • Half of all plastic to have been made was produced in the past 13 years.
  • It is estimated that, by 2050, there will be 12 billion tonnes of waste plastic in existence.

This report has put real facts and figures behind what many people have suspected for a long time – namely, that mass plastic production is a serious issue which requires a concerted effort by recycling experts to overcome. This again highlights the importance that professionals holding top waste sector roles have to play in improving the efficiency of our recycling and disposal services.

Image Credits: Bo Eide

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