Select the search type
  • Site
  • Web


Published on Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Overwhelming Problem of Plastics


The Overwhelming Problem of Plastics

A recent study published in Science Advances has shed light on the world’s overwhelming use of plastic. According to The National Geographic, it’s “the first global analysis of all plastics ever made.” For the past six decades plastics have been mass produced, and humans have managed to manufacture 8.3 billion metric tons of it. Unfortunately, plastic that’s thrown away doesn’t magically disappear. It takes plastic more than 400 years to degrade. And as a result of this mass production, the world is now faced with an overwhelming amount of plastic that’s causing more harm than good for the environment.  

The Global Analysis of Plastics

Roland Geyer, the lead author of the new study, says that the team was motivated to quantify the world’s problem of plastic production in order to build a foundation for better plastic waste management. According to Geyer, “it’s not just that we make a lot, it’s that we also make more, year after year.” If the plastic production trend continues, by 2050 we could see 12 billion metric tons of plastic throughout the world’s landfills.

Geyer and his team found that “half the resins and fibers used in plastics were produced in the last 13 years.” 28 percent of global resin and 68 percent of polyester polyamide and acrylic fibers were produced in China alone. Over 40 percent of non-fiber plastic is produced for plastic packaging. Today, it seems almost impossible to buy anything without some sort of plastic product attached to it.

Researchers of the study also found that 6.3 billion metric tons, out of the 8.3 billion metric tons produced, becomes plastic waste. 79 percent of all plastic produced ends up in landfills or found littered in the natural environment. Only about 9 percent has been recycled and 12 percent has been incinerated. The sad truth is that recycling and incineration have not proven to be viable solutions for the problem of plastic. In Europe, only 30 percent of plastics are recycled. In China, 25 percent, and in the United States, a measly 9 percent. Another sad truth is that plastic that doesn’t get recycled or incinerated ends up in in the world’s oceans.

Addressing the Problem on a Global Scale

Jenna Jambeck is an environmental engineer from the University of Georgia who studies plastic waste in the world’s oceans. She led a study to find out how much plastic waste flows into the ocean annually. In that study, which was published in 2015, Jambeck and her team estimated that 8 million metric tons of plastic ends up in the oceans each year. This amounts to five grocery bags of plastic trash for every foot of coastline around the globe.

Jambeck says, “We all knew there was a rapid and extreme increase in plastic production from 1950 until now, but actually quantifying the cumulative number for all plastic ever made was quite shocking.”  Plastic is being produced and thrown away at a rate that’s causing harm to the environment, and in particular, the world’s oceans. What most people don’t know, is that their disposable plastic bags, straws, bottles, coffee cups, etc., get littered in the natural environment and eventually funnelled into the ocean.

Jambeck believes that we need to take a global approach to the issue and rethink consumer use, recycling strategies, product design and plastic chemistry. According to Geyer, it’s time for society to think about using materials that have less of an environmental impact. “We as a society need to consider whether it’s worth trading off some convenience for a clean, healthy environment”.


Rate this article:
No rating
Comments ()Number of views (415)

Author: AThompson

Categories: Blogs, Consumer Products, Research, Animals & Wildlife



Search Jobs


«January 2018»

Climate Change & The Poor: A Toxic Relationship

The impacts of climate change are undoubtedly affecting the world on a global scale. However, its effects are far more pronounced among the poor.

Read more

Pre-Historic Ticks

Ticks are some of the most aggravating parasites today but they've been around for millions of years - even long enough to feed on the blood of dinosaurs.

Read more

'The Cove' Nine Years Later

You may remember the uproar surrounding The Cove almost a decade ago. Today, the fishing community at the heart of the film has finally spoken up. 

Read more

Saving A Life

Watch this amazing footage of the rescue of a drowned puppy and the ingenuity, persistence, and passion of the man who saved it.

Read more

Winter Enviro-friendly Tips

This is the time of year for family, food, and holiday cheer. But it's also the season that produces the most waste. Here's how to get green over the holidays.

Read more

A Mesmerizing Flock

Have a look at this visually hypnotizing footage of one of nature's most arresting phenomenons - the flight of the flock of starlings. A gorgeous sight to behold!

Read more

The Controversy of Fracking

Fracking is in fact dangerous. Recent study proves that infants in areas surrounding fracking sites may suffer from permanent health effects and growth problems.

Read more

An Unobstructed Look Inside The Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA has long stood as one of the most powerful defenders of the health and safety of the environment and safety standards. A lot has changed. 

Read more

Master of Deception

Few living species can match the powers of deception and stealth quite like the amazing Zodrian spider - known for wearing the carcasses of their victims.

Read more

The Digital Impact: Bitcoin's Carbon Footprint

Bitcoin is becoming one of the most quickly growing cryptocurrencies today. But this new form of payment is more costly for the environment than you may think. 

Read more

Animals That Fit On Your Finger

There are few things as adorable and heartwarming as pint-sized pets. Here are just some of the most popular ones available today.

Read more

Amazing Fungus Breaks Down Plastic Within a Few Weeks

No doubt about it, plastics are amazing. But they're also particularly bad for the environment as they're tough to break down. A new study has a solution - fungus. 

Read more

Curious Bear Finds The Camera

Getting that perfect wildlife shot can be tough. That's why the BBC Earth team developed innovative spy cameras to catch each amazing moment, like the skiing cam. 

Read more

Baby Sea Turtle Treadmills

Light pollution has become a serious problem of modern living. And for turtles, it's even worse. That's why scientists devised this unique and adorable experiment. 

Read more

Consider This Before Your Next Virtual Shopping Trip

Online shopping has long been held in high regard as the more eco-friendly way to purchase. But e-commerce may actually be worse for our environment than you think.

Read more

Traffic Stopped by Silverback Gorillas

Silverback gorillas are amazing and beautiful creatures to be sure. Watch as a troop is filmed literally stopping traffic crossing a crowded road. 

Read more

China's Ivory Trade Ban: What It Means Going Forward

Elephant numbers have long been on the decline due to poaching for their tusks. But China's new ivory trade ban aims to curb that trend and protect these animals.

Read more

Hungry Deer Meets Delicious Snowman

Tis the season for snowmen to start popping up on front lawns. But don't leave carrots out for too long or you might get a hungry wildlife visitor.

Read more

The Future of Power: Solar Windows

While solar technology is advancing at a breakneck pace, one innovation in the industry is set to change the way we collect power forever - solar windows. 

Read more

Literally Swimming in Drugs

It's a tragedy that animals are trapped in our trash. But it's astounding that one turtle in particular was found wrapped up in over $53 million worth of cocaine.

Read more

Whose Responsible for Your Dirty Water?

Clean drinking water is supposed to be a right of every citizen in the nation. However, this right is often violated - and it isn't getting any better.

Read more

Global Warming & Cold Spells: What's the Connection?

When faced with bitter-cold weather, some people tend to think global warming isn't real. But in fact, global warming just may be the culprit behind dropping temps.

Read more

Spiders: Ancient & Amazing

Spiders have been producing silk for literally hundreds of millions of years. Take a look at just why these creatures and the silk they produce are so amazing. 

Read more

The Threat of Ocean Deoxygenation

We often hear of the widespread effects of pollution on the ocean and the life it holds. But there's another threat beneath the surface - ocean deoxygenation.

Read more

The Sun: An Introduction

The Sun is literally the source of life for everything on the planet earth. But what is that giant ball of light in the sky really? How does it work?

Read more


    Help Us Go Green
    Help Us Go Green