Humans are Covering Earth with Plastic, says a New Study

Humans have created 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics since the early 1950s, and most of it now resides in landfills or the natural environment, a study on increasing plastic waste led by UC Santa Barbara has found.

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Plastic waste,
Plastic waste, Pixabay
  • The research provides with the first global analysis of the creation, utilization, and destiny of all plastics made at any point of time, including the manufactured strands
  • They found that worldwide production of plastic by 2015 had reached to 6.3 billion, that is a lot of plastic waste

Washington D.C. (US), July 26, 2017: Plastic waste is a cause of huge concern as it never really goes away. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade like other organic materials such as wood and paper. Due to this, every single piece of plastic ever made is still present today in some form or another. The rate at which plastic waste is increasing with each passing day is alarming. It’s leading to a ‘period of plastic’ and if the contamination level continues to rise, Earth will soon move towards a plastic planet.

People have created more than 8 billion metric tons of plastic since the large scale generation of manufactured materials that started in the early 1950s and it’s adequate to cover the whole of Argentina and most of the material now lives in the landfills or in the native habitat.

Such are the discoveries of a new study led by UC Santa Barbara modern environmentalist Roland Geyer. The research provides with the first global analysis of the creation, utilization, and destiny of all plastics made at any point of time, including the manufactured strands.

plastic bottles getting dumped, Pixabay

“We can’t proceed with anything new unless we need a planet that is completely shrouded in plastic,” said lead author Geyer. This paper conveys hard data on not only about how much plastic we’ve generated throughout the years but also its structure and the amount and kind of additives that that plastic contains. Geyer said, “I hope this data will be utilized by policymakers to enhance end-of-life management strategies for plastics.”

Geyer and his group compiled production statistics for resins, fibers, and additives from an assortment of industry sources and integrated them as per sort and consuming sector. They found that worldwide production of plastic resins and fibers saw an expansion of 2 million metric tons in 1950 to more than 400 million metric tons in 2015, exceeding most other man-made materials. Notable exemptions are steel and cement. While these materials are utilized principally for construction, the biggest market for plastics is packaging, which is utilized once and discarded afterward. ”Roughly 50% of all the steel we make goes into construction, so it will have many years of utilization; plastic is the inverse,” Geyer said. “Half of all plastics end up squandering following four or fewer years of use.”

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Also, the pace of plastic production hints at no signs of slowing anytime soon. Out of the total amount of plastic resins and fibers produced from 1950 to 2015, roughly half was created in the last 13 years. Geyer added, “What we are trying to do is to create the foundation for sustainable materials management.”

In simple words, we can’t manage what we don’t measure, and so we think that the policy discussions on it will be more informed and actuality based now that we have these numbers.

The researchers also found that by 2015, people had produced 6.3 billion plastic waste. Out of which, only 9 % was recycled; 12 % was burned and 79 % gathered in landfills or the natural environment. If the present pattern continues, Geyer noted that about 12 billion metric tons of plastic waste will be in landfills or the indigenous habitat by 2050.

“Most plastics don’t biodegrade in a true sense, so the plastic waste humans have produced could be with us for hundreds or even thousands of years,” said co-author Jenna Jambeck.

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The study stresses upon the need to contemplate on the materials we use and our waste management practices. The investigators rush to alert that they don’t seek to dispose of plastic from the commercial sector but instead advocate a more thorough examination of plastic use.

“There are certain areas where the use of plastic is simply indispensable, such as the medical industry,” said co-author Kara Lavender Law.She added, “I do think we have to take a careful look at our use of plastics and ask ourselves if it makes sense.” The study on concerns of accumulating plastic waste appears in the journal Science Advances.

– prepared by Kritika Dua of NewsGram. Twitter @DKritika08


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