Global trade of plastic is discussed here. Packaging is therefore the dominant generator of plastic waste, responsible for almost half of the global total. Science Advances, 4(6), eaat0131. The vast majority – 82 million tonnes of macroplastics and 40 million tonnes of microplastics – is washed up, buried or resurfaced along the world’s shorelines. Biomagnification (sometimes termed ‘bioamplification’ or ‘biological magnification’), is the increasing concentration of a substance in the tissues of organisms at successively higher levels in a food chain. In fact, if North America & Europe were to completely eliminate plastic use, global mismanaged plastic would decline by less than 5 percent.10, The data presented in the analysis above is for the year 2010; how is this global picture likely to change over time? This is shown for two categories of plastics: shown in blue are ‘macroplastics’ (larger plastic materials greater than 0.5 centimeters in diameter) and shown in red microplastics (smaller particles less than 0.5 centimeters). It is not surprising that plastic bottles constitute close to 50% of recyclable waste in the dumps. Considering the lack of coastal populations and plastic inputs in the Southern Hemisphere, this was an unexpected result. They therefore do not represent quantities of plastic at risk of loss to the ocean or other waterways. Not all of the plastic waste we generate is at high risk of entering the oceans; in fact, for many countries the quantity which does end up as ocean pollution is very small. Jambeck et al. global primary production of plastic was 270 million tonnes; global plastic waste was 275 million tonnes – it did exceed annual primary production through wastage of plastic from previous years; plastic waste generated in coastal regions is most at risk of entering the oceans; in 2010 coastal plastic waste – generated within 50 kilometres of the coastline – amounted to 99.5 million tonnes; only plastic waste which is improperly managed (mismanaged) is at significant risk of leakage to the environment; in 2010 this amounted to 31.9 million tonnes; of this, 8 million tonnes – 3% of global annual plastics waste – entered the ocean (through multiple outlets, including rivers); Plastics in the oceans’ surface waters is several orders of magnitude lower than annual ocean plastic inputs. This can ultimately lead to death. Plastics in the marine environment. These projections assume growth in plastic generation rates and population, but that the proportion of plastic waste generation which is adequately managed remains constant. This was 16.3 percent of all MSW combusted with energy recovery that year. The recycling rate of PET bottles and jars was 29.1 percent in 2017, and the rate for HDPE natural bottles was 31.2 percent in 2017. (2014) estimated that there was approximately 269,000 tonnes of plastic in surface waters across the world.18. For more comprehensive information, see the 2018 Data Tables on the Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures Report page. This estimate is available only for the year 2010, but as we see later in this entry, the relative global picture is similar in projections to 2025. The recycling rate of PET bottles and jars was 26.8 percent in 2018, and the rate for HDPE natural bottles was 29.3 percent in 2018. Eriksen, M., Lebreton, L. C., Carson, H. S., Thiel, M., Moore, C. J., Borerro, J. C., … & Reisser, J. Ocean. e 2% waste growth over the past decade, local households were still the largest generators of plastic waste in Hong Kong, taking up 62% of the total in 2015. It highlights the fundamental role of waste management in preventing ocean pollution; whilst countries across North America and Europe generate significant quantities of plastic waste (particularly on a per capita basis), well-managed waste streams mean that very little of this is at risk of ocean pollution. When citing this entry, please also cite the underlying data sources. In such studies, however, concentrations and exposure to microplastics far exceeded levels which would be encountered in the natural environment (even a highly contaminated one). Environmental Science & Technology, 49(15), 8932-8947. This would be expected since the majority of the world’s population – and in particular, coastal populations – live within the Northern Hemisphere. The amount of plastic film and wrap produced annually could shrink-wrap the state of Texas. Kühn, S., Rebolledo, E. L. B., & van Franeker, J. Eriksen, M., Lebreton, L. C., Carson, H. S., Thiel, M., Moore, C. J., Borerro, J. C., … & Reisser, J. As shown in the chart here, the largest accumulation of plastics within ocean basins is the North Pacific. Ecosystem structures can also be impacted by plastics following interference of substrate with plastics (impacting on light penetration, organic matter availability and oxygen exchange). Inadequately disposed waste is that which has the intention of being managed through waste collection or storage sites, but is ultimately not formally or sufficiently managed. Geyer, R., Jambeck, J. R., & Law, K. L. (2017). This is differentiated by domestic plastic waste generation, shown in grey, and imported plastic waste shown in red. Whilst we try to tally ocean inputs with the amount floating in gyres at the centre of our oceans, most of it may be accumulating around the edges of the oceans. In the chart we see the share of global plastic waste that is discarded, recycled or incinerated from 1980 through to 2015. Güven, O., Gökdağ, K., Jovanović, B., & Kıdeyş, A. E. (2017). Firstly, is that the majority of ocean plastics are washed, buried and resurface along our shorelines. 17. This model uses data on global plastic production, emissions into the ocean by plastic type and age, and transport and degradation rates to map not only the amount of plastic in different environments in the ocean, but also its age. Scientific reports, 9(1), 1-10. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0269749116311666. In the chart we see the quantity of plastic waste China had to manage over the period from 2010 to 2016. This makes a second priority necessary— we have to focus our efforts on recapturing and removing plastics already in our offshore waters and shorelines. How much plastic has the world produced cumulatively? Most microplastics (three-quarters) in offshore environments are from the 1990s and earlier, suggesting it can take several decades for plastics to break down. UNEP & FAO (2009). Yang, D., Shi, H., Li, L., Li, J., Jabeen, K., & Kolandhasamy, P. (2015). Brooks et al. Hong Kong Waste Treatment and Disposal Statistics. In 1950 the world produced only 2 million tonnes per year. This was estimated by Lebreton et al. As we see, Hong Kong typically acts as an entry point for Chinese imports; it is therefore the largest ‘exporting’ country to China. In a Nature study, Lebreton et al. These results are presented in the map as the share of global mismanaged waste by country, and aggregated by region. Poor waste management across many middle- and low-income countries means that these are the main sources of global ocean plastic pollution, An estimated 20 percent of all plastic waste in the oceans comes from marine sources. In 2018, plastics generation was 35.7 million tons in the United States, which was 12.2 percent of MSW generation. Which countries export the most plastic waste to China? To date, there has been no clear evidence of the accumulation of persistent organic pollutants or leached plastic additives in humans. Since then, annual production has increased nearly 200-fold, reaching 381 million tonnes in 2015. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0045653517311724. Help us do this work by making a donation. Tech. (2018) attempted to quantify the characteristics of the GPGP.20, The vast majority  of GPGP material is plastics — trawling samples indicate an estimated 99.9 percent of all floating debris. United States Environmental Protection Agency, Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures Report page. NOAA-TM-NMFS-SWFC-54. Around 52 percent of plastics originated from fishing activity and included fishing lines, nets and ropes; a further 47 percent was sourced from hard plastics, sheets and films; and the remaining components were small in comparison (just under one percent). The most well-known example of large plastic accumulations in surface waters is the so-called ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ (GPGP). in tissue) remains to be studied in detail.60 Micro- and nanoplastics in bivalves (mussels and oysters) cultured for human consumption have also been identified. One ton of plastic is around 25,000 plastic bottles. Collectively, these countries are responsible for around 76 percent of its imports. Microplastic ingestion rarely causes mortality in any organisms. (2016). In 2020 This month This week Today One key input is through river systems. Share of global total mismanaged plastic waste. In: Bergmann M., Gutow L., Klages M. (eds) Marine Anthropogenic Litter. Countries around the middle of the global income spectrum therefore tend to have the highest per capita mismanaged plastic rates. As we see in the chart, North America was responsible for 0.9 percent of global mismanaged plastic, and Europe & Central Asia for 3.6 percent. 75-116). But our best estimates of the amount of plastic afloat at sea are orders of magnitude lower than the amount of plastic that enters our oceans in a single year: as we show in the visualization, it’s far lower than 8 million tonnes and instead in the order of 10s to 100s of thousands of tonnes. Ecology, 97(2), 302-312. This was 18.5 percent of all MSW landfilled. In 1950, the world’s population of 2.5 billion produced 1.5 million tons of plastic; in 2016, a global population of more than 7 billion people produced over 320 million tons of plastic. 2013. In 2016, this figure was 7.35 million tonnes. Primary plastic production does not directly reflect plastic waste generation (as shown in the next section), since this is also influenced by the polymer type and lifetime of the end product. There is, currently, very little evidence of the impact that microplastics can have on humans. The amount of plastic in surface waters is not very well known: estimates range from 10,000s to 100,000s tonnes. An estimated 20 percent of all plastic waste in the oceans comes from marine sources. A global mass budget for positively buoyant macroplastic debris in the ocean. Scientific Reports 3:3263. Many high-income countries are included in this top 10: Japan, USA, Germany, Belgium, Australia and Canada are all major plastic exporters. Of course, not all of our plastic waste ends up in the ocean, most ends up in landfills: it’s estimated that the share of global plastic waste that enters the ocean is around 3%.22 In 2010 – the year for which we have the latest estimates – that was around 8 million tonnes.23, Most of the plastic materials we produce are less dense than water and should therefore float at the ocean surface. Bouwmeester, H., Hollman, P. C., & Peters, R. J. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0269749116323910. Memo. Mismanaged waste generation tends to be low at very low incomes (since per capita waste is small); it then rises towards middle incomes; and then falls again at higher incomes. This web page contains material-specific information and data on plastics. Marine pollution bulletin, 92(1-2), 170-179. Marine Pollution Bulletin 69:206–14. As a result, plastics tend to accumulate in oceanic gyres, with high concentrations of plastics at the centre of ocean basins, and much less around the perimeters. 90% of the trash floating in our oceans is made of plastic, around 46,000 pieces per square mile. Most river plastic originates from Asia, which represents  86 percent of the global total. To understand the magnitude of input of plastics to the natural environment and the world’s oceans, we must understand various elements of the plastic production, distribution and waste management chain. Packed in cubed … Environmental Pollution, 221, 141-149. The accumulation of a large number of particles tends to result from the breakdown of larger plastics — this results in an accumulation of plastic particles for a given mass. This is set to double by 2034. Note that this at least an order of magnitude lower than estimated inputs of plastics to the ocean; the discrepancy here relates to a surprising, but long-standing question in the research literature on plastics: “where is the missing plastic going?“. Nature News, 536(7616), 263. One of the most widely-quoted estimates is 250,000 tonnes.24. For example, its estimated that plastic lines, ropes and fishing nets comprise 52 percent of the plastic mass in the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ (GPGP) (and comprises 46 percent of the megaplastics component of the GPGP).16. In the chart we see plastic production allocation by sector for 2015. We see very large differences in the effectiveness of waste management across the world: Littered waste is distinct from ‘inadequately disposed’ waste in that it represents plastics that are dumped or disposed of without consent in an inappropriate location. Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. In the chart we see the per capita rate of plastic waste generation, measured in kilograms per person per day. In the chart we see the total plastic waste generation by country, measured in tonnes per year. 16. In the period from 2010 to 2025, it’s therefore expected that there will be a slight shift in relative contribution from the Americas, Europe and North Africa towards Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. In general — although there is significant variation across countries at all levels of development — plastic waste generation tends to increase as we get richer. Available at: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/347/6223/768. The data used in this figure is based on the Science study: Jambeck, J. R., Geyer, R., Wilcox, C., Siegler, T. R., Perryman, M., Andrady, A., … & Law, K. L. (2015). RS Shomura, HO Yoshida, pp. Over the next 65 years, annual production of plastics increased nearly 200-fold to 381 million tonnes in 2015. Sources: Plastics information is from the American Chemistry Council and the National Association for PET Container Resources. This is the goal of Slat, Lebreton and Egger – the authors of this paper – with their Ocean Cleanup project. The results of the monitoring work carried out between 1999 and 2018 are summarised graphically in the figures below. Mismanaged waste is the sum of material which is either littered or inadequately disposed. Available at: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-16510-3_4. (2015). Which oceans have the most plastic waste? Beyond domestic plastic waste generation, there is also a large global commodity market for recycled plastic waste. Interactions of microplastic debris throughout the marine ecosystem. (2015) Micro- and Nano-plastics and Human Health. In the visualization I summarized their results. In some regions, marine sources dominate: More than half of plastics in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) come from fishing nets, ropes and lines This is shown by particle size in terms of mass (left) and particle count (right). Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X14008571. In 2018, landfills received 27 million tons of plastic. However, note that this is based on the simplistic extrapolation of historic trends and does not represent concrete projections. What are the impacts of microplastics on health? Iñiguez, M. E., Conesa, J. This is followed by Africa at 7.8 percent, and South America at 4.8 percent. 73% of beach litter worldwide is plastic. Whilst high-income countries tend to have effective waste management infrastructure and therefore very small quantities of inadequately disposed waste, they can contribute to plastics pollution by littering. Inadequately disposed waste is not formally managed and includes disposal in dumps or open, uncontrolled landfills, where it is not fully contained. There are a few exceptions: common goby exposure to polyethylene and pyrene; Asian green mussels exposed to polyvinylchloride (PVC); and Daphnia magna neonates exposed to polyethylene45,46,47. This article was first published in September 2018. Available at: https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/pdf/10.1146/annurev-marine-010816-060409. The average American throws away approximately 185 pounds of plastic per year. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0269749114002425. This makes it a valuable material for many functions. Environmental Science & Technology, 47(15), 8818-8824. (2015). Plastic recycling results in significant energy savings compared with the production of new plastics using virgin material. Available at: http://oro.open.ac.uk/47539/. 50% of this is single-use plastic & only 9% has ever been recycled. The reported land area of Spain is approximately 500,000 square kilometres, and Alaska is an estimated 1.5 million square kilometres. Available at: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0155063. (2014). Nonetheless, despite many documented cases, it’s widely acknowledged that the full extent of impacts on ecosystems is not yet known. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25563688. In 2017 it implemented a much stricter, permanent ban on non-industrial plastic imports.74 In the chart we see the estimated impact on the cumulative displacement of global plastic waste to 2030 as a result of the Chinese import ban.75 This is shown for three scenarios: assuming the maintained 100 percent import ban, in addition to the impact if this was reduced to 75 or 50 percent. Gyres and basins much more readily than previously assumed repurposed ( recycled ) plastics market and! Nephrops norvegicus ): Law, K. L. 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plastic waste statistics

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