Earth's loaded with 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics

Earth's loaded with 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics

Can you imagine what a pile of 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic would look like? Environmentalists have been advocating reduced use of plastics for years, but a new study with regard to the large-scale production of plastic could truly be the wake-up call humans need. A team of scientists from the University of Georgia, University of California, Santa Barbara, and Sea Education Association have conducted a first-of-its-kind global analysis of the production of all the plastics ever made. The results are appalling to say the least; humans have created 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics and most of it cannot be recycled. 

The study that was published in the journal Science Advances also seeks to determine the use of the plastics and the future—waste management and bio-degradability. Large-scale production of plastic started in 1950s and has only increased rapidly. The synthetic materials that are not degradable now mostly lie in landfills, oceans, and the rest of the natural environment.  

Production statistics from various industry sources have been compiled by the scientists that tell us about resins, fibers, and other such synthetic material. The study seeks to quantify plastic production as a first step with an aim to manage it eventually. In 2015, the same research team had published a study in the journal Science that calculated the magnitude of plastic being dumped into the ocean. A whopping 8 million metric tons of plastic waste has been discarded into the oceans in 2010.

Complete removal of plastic from our day-to-day lives is not the solution; nor are the scientists advocating it. But a more critical examination of the use of plastics in all aspects of our life is recommended. In some areas, plastic is indispensable because of durability and the amount of use we get from it. However, sometimes plastic is produced and discarded in a few years or even instantly like in packaging. It’s perhaps time to think more aggressively about using sustainable material and managing waste more effectively.    

DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1700782



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