In a recent article here at Recycle Nation, I learned about a mind blowing new study on the impact of plastic waste that was recently published in the Science Advances journal. The study is the “first global analysis of all mass-produced plastics ever manufactured.”
Read Plastic Waste Will Top 13 Billion Tons by 2050 at https://recyclenation.com/2017/08/plastic-waste-will-top-13-billion-tons-by-2050/.
To read the study, Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made visit http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/7/e1700782.full.
Bottom line? There has been 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic created since the 1950s.
In an interview talking about the study with National Geographic, Jenna Jambeck, one of the study’s authors commented, “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,” Ms. Jambeck is a University of Georgia environmental engineer who specializes in studying plastic waste in the oceans.
“This kind of increase would ‘break’ any system that was not prepared for it, and this is why we have seen leakage from global waste systems into the oceans,” she says.
A few of the facts from the study
- The largest plastic market is packaging which has been helped by a worldwide shift from reusable products to single-use products.
- Plastic debris has been found in all major ocean basins.
- As of 2015 only 9 percent of plastic waste had been recycled. Though, recycling, the study poses “delays, rather than avoids, final disposal.”
“The growth of plastics production in the past 65 years has substantially outpaced any other manufactured material. The same properties that make plastics so versatile in innumerable applications—durability and resistance to degradation—make these materials difficult or impossible for nature to assimilate. Thus, without a well-designed and tailor-made management strategy for end-of-life plastics, humans are conducting a singular uncontrolled experiment on a global scale, in which billions of metric tons of material will accumulate across all major terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems on the planet.”
The study’s lead author, Roland Geyer, told National Geographic that the team created the study to create a basis to better manage plastic products. “You can’t manage what you don’t measure,” he says. “It’s not just that we make a lot, it’s that we also make more, year after year.”
The Marine Debris Tracker app
In 2010, Jenna Jambeck, helped to create a mobile app that tracks marine debris. If you live near an ocean or other large body of water, download the Marine Debris Tracker app and collect trash on your walks by the water.
The app was developed to provide “a useful tool for a user to conduct casual or scientific marine debris data collection work, anywhere in the world.” Another reason for its creation was to facilitate outreach and education.
To find out more information about the Marine Debris Tracker mobile app, visit http://www.marinedebris.engr.uga.edu/.This waste problem is not going away anytime soon. Armed with data like this, consumers need to make smarter choices when purchasing products. Avoid buying new plastic whenever possible especially single-use plastics.