Since the end of World War II, plastics have proliferated, becoming a part of nearly everything we use in nearly every aspect of daily life. Yearly production has grown from 2 million metric tons of plastic in 1950 to 380 million metric tons in 2015.
In total, according to a paper published on July 19, 2017, in Science Advances, humans have made 8.3 billion metric tons of new plastics since 1950. And, thanks in large part to the global popularity of single-use plastic packaging, half that total was made in just the last decade.
The problem is plastic doesn’t ever really disappear—at least not on any timescale that would be relevant to humans. Recycling plastic helps some, but it doesn’t make it go away, it just delays the date at which it ultimately ends up in a landfill. So each year, the plastic we make piles onto the plastic we made the year before, and the year before that, and so on. [Continue reading…]