Our planet is drowning in plastic pollution
While plastic has many valuable uses, we have become addicted to single-use or disposable plastic — with severe environmental consequences.
Around the world, one million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute, while up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide every year. In total, half of all plastic produced is designed to be used only once — and then thrown away.
Plastic waste is now so ubiquitous in the natural environment that scientists have even suggested it could serve as a geological indicator of the Anthropocene era.
So how did we get here?
Researchers estimate that more than 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced since the early 1950s. About 60% of that plastic has ended up in either a landfill or the natural environment.
We’re seeing some other worrying trends. Since the 1950s, the rate of plastic production has grown faster than that of any other material.
We’ve also seen a shift away from the production of durable plastic, and towards plastics that are meant to be thrown away after a single use. More than 99% of plastics are produced from chemicals derived from oil, natural gas and coal — all of which are dirty, non-renewable resources.
If current trends continue, by 2050 the plastic industry could account for 20% of the world’s total oil consumption.