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Livin' in a plastic world

Livin' in a plastic world

And, If current trends continue, the researchers warned more than 13 billion tons of plastic waste will be discarded in landfills or dumped in the environment by 2050 - around 35,000 times as heavy as the Empire State Building in NY.

Researchers collected data on the fate of all plastic since the material was initially mass-produced in the 1950s. Waste management information for 52 other countries for 2014 indicates the rest of the world has recycling and incineration rates similar to the US. Since plastics are produced largely from petroleum, they get cheaper when oil prices are down, making recycled plastic less competitive.

While plastics are durable and lightweight, almost all commercial plastics are non-biodegradable - meaning they remain in the environment for decades before breaking down.

Researchers compiled production statistics for resins, fibres and additives from a variety of industry sources dating back to 1950 to calculate how much plastic had been created in the following 65 years.

"The same properties that make plastics so versatile in innumerable applications - durability and resistance to degradation - make these materials hard or impossible for nature to assimilate", the new study notes.

Historical data and projections to 2050 of plastic waste production and disposal.

A total of 79 per cent of that plastic waste accumulated in landfills or the environment, including the oceans. Another surprise, he said, is how far the United States lags behind China and Europe in recycling plastic material.

"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 the University of Georgia.

"Our estimates underscore the need to think critically about the materials we use and our waste management practices", Jambeck says.

Roland Geyer, a professor of industrial ecology and the study's lead author, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation "If you spread all of this plastic equally, ankle-deep, it would cover an area the size of Argentina".

Israeli Metal Detectors Intercept Muslim Prayers to Allah
A rash of Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers erupted in 2015, partly over tensions at the holy site. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they seek in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Seventy years ago, plastic was barely used outside of the military.

The paper says it is the first attempt to measure the total amount of plastic produced since the beginning of mass plastic production in the middle of the 20th century.

"So, our idea was to put the numbers out there without us telling the world what the world should be doing, but really just to start a real, concerted discussion".

Plastics makers are working closely with NGOs, governments, and businesses in the USA and around the world to increase investment in waste management infrastructure, encourage the adoption of advanced recycling equipment, and expand opportunities for energy conversion where recycling isn't feasible. Back in 2015, the same team of researchers estimated that around eight million tons of plastic poured into the ocean in 2010. Plastic is pretty much everywhere humans are at any part of the day, anywhere in the world.

Scientists have calculated the total amount of plastic ever made.

Writing in the journal Science Advances, Geyer notes that plastic production has grown 8 percent a year for decades.

"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.

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