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Sci Adv. 2017 Jul 19;3(7):e1700782. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.1700782. eCollection 2017 Jul.

Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made.

Author information

1
Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA.
2
College of Engineering, University of Georgia, 412 Driftmier Engineering Center, Athens, GA 30602, USA.
3
Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA.

Abstract

Plastics have outgrown most man-made materials and have long been under environmental scrutiny. However, robust global information, particularly about their end-of-life fate, is lacking. By identifying and synthesizing dispersed data on production, use, and end-of-life management of polymer resins, synthetic fibers, and additives, we present the first global analysis of all mass-produced plastics ever manufactured. We estimate that 8300 million metric tons (Mt) as of virgin plastics have been produced to date. As of 2015, approximately 6300 Mt of plastic waste had been generated, around 9% of which had been recycled, 12% was incinerated, and 79% was accumulated in landfills or the natural environment. If current production and waste management trends continue, roughly 12,000 Mt of plastic waste will be in landfills or in the natural environment by 2050.

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