Researchers from the University of Georgia and the University of California found that by 2015 humans had generated 8.3 billion tons of plastics and 6.3 billion tons had become waste.
Only nine per cent of the waste plastic was recycled, 12 per cent was incinerated and 79 per cent had accumulated in landfill or the natural environment. If current trends continue, roughly 12 billion tons of plastic waste will be in landfills or polluting oceans by 2050.
“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 Associate Professor Jenna Jambeck.
“Our estimates underscore the need to think critically about the materials we use and our waste management practices.”