WASHINGTON United States (Xinhua) --
Scientists are warning that plastic pollution
risks “near-permanent contamination of the natural environment”
with a staggering 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics produced
since the 1950s.
A study led by a
team of scientists from the University of Georgia (UGA), the
University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and Sea Education
Association, is the first global analysis of the production, use
and fate of all plastics ever made.
As of 2015, humans
had generated 8.3 billion metric tons of virgin plastics, 6.3
billion metric tons of which had already become waste, according
to the study published Wednesday in the journal Science
In other words, the
amount of plastics produced is as heavy as 1 billion elephants
or 822,000 Eiffel Tower, according to the study.
Of the total plastic
waste, only 9 percent was recycled, 12 percent was incinerated
and 79 percent accumulated in landfills or the natural
environment, the study showed.
“Most plastics don’t
biodegrade in any meaningful sense, so the plastic waste humans
have generated could be with us for hundreds or even thousands
of years,” said Jenna Jambeck, study co-author and associate
professor of engineering at UGA.
underscore the need to think critically about the materials we
use and our waste management practices.”
A world without
plastics seems unimaginable today, yet their large-scale
production and use only dates back to the 1950s.
Global production of
plastics increased from 2 million metric tons in 1950 to over
400 million metric tons in 2015, according to the study,
outgrowing most other man-made materials.
If current trends
continue, roughly 12 billion metric tons of plastic waste will
be in landfills or the natural environment by 2050, according to
“What we are trying
to do is to create the foundation for sustainable materials
management,” said Roland Geyer, lead author of the study and
associate professor in UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental
Science and Management.
“Put simply, you
can’t manage what you don’t measure, and so we think policy
discussions will be more informed and fact based now that we
have these numbers.”
Plastic debris has
also been found in all major ocean basins.
The same team of
researchers estimated in a 2015 study that 8 million metric tons
of plastic entered the oceans in 2010.