8.3b tonnes of plastic causing 'near permanent contamination of natural environment'

Manual separation of plastic bottles labels and caps

In the study, Dr Geyer wrote: "On the basis of limited available data, the highest recycling rates in 2014 were in Europe (30 per cent) and China (25 per cent), whereas in the United States, plastic recycling has remained steady at 9 per cent".

The largest market for plastics is packaging, an application whose growth is only accelerating due to a global shift from reusable to single-use containers, the study points out. In this new study, the team said plastics are found in every major ocean basin in the world. Except for what is burned, "all the plastics that we made since 1950 are still with us", he said.

Researchers estimate that the amount of plastic waste in the world's landfills and scattered through nature could reach 13.2 billion USA tons by 2050 if production and recycling rates continue at their current rates.

Plastic waste has three fates - recycling, thermal destruction and landfills. At least until we throw it out, and then it becomes a blight on the environment.

Study co-author Jenna Jambeck, of the University of Georgia, said the world needed to know how much plastic waste there was before it could tackle the problem.

To develop a truly comprehensive waste management plan, Hoornweg said communities need strategies to address and track other waste too, such as metals and hazardous materials.

The researchers collected production statistics for fibers, resins and additives from various industry sources and incorporated them based on the type and consuming sector.

"We can not continue with business as usual unless we want a planet that is literally covered in plastic", said lead author Geyer, an associate professor at UCSB's Bren School of Environmental Science & Management.

The study, by scientists in the USA, is the first global analysis of the production, use and fate of all plastics ever made.

And the pace of production shows no signs of slowing.

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About half of the total amount of plastics produced from 1950 to 2015 has been made in just the last 13 years. But, since 2002, we've doubled that yield, Geyer said.

Plastics don't break down like other man-made materials, so three-quarters of the stuff ends up as waste in landfills, littered on land and floating in oceans, lakes and rivers, according to the research reported in Wednesday's journal Science Advances.

An official of a US trade group said the plastics industry recognizes the problem and is working to increase recycling and reduce waste.

Humans have officially produced 18.2 trillion pounds of plastic.

The researchers are quick to stress, though, that the study should be used to highlight the issue and generate discussion about the use and distribution of plastic, and is not calling for the total removal of plastic from the marketplace.

The authors note that though plastic recycling has increased greatly since the 1980s (when it was virtually non-existent) its capacity to reduce future plastic waste generation depends on displacing primary plastic production; otherwise it simply delays rather than avoids final disposal.

"Hopefully, everyone who reads this article will come away with the same idea, that we need to change the way we make use of and manage plastics", he said.

It may worry you that much of our mainstream press is increasingly reporting with a strong right-wing bias.

More than 8 billion metric tons.

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