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Toronto, Jul 26 (Canadian-Media): 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic, of which 6.3 billion tonnes has already become waste have been created by human, a new study – “Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made” by Roland Geyer, Jenna R. Jambeck and Kara Lavender Law, published in Science Advances 19 Jul 2017, media reports said.
“Plastics have outgrown most man-made materials and have long been under environmental scrutiny… We estimate that 8300 million metric tons (Mt) as of virgin plastics have been produced to date…If current production and waste management trends continue, roughly 12,000 Mt of plastic waste will be in landfills or in the natural environment by 2050,” the study said.
Plastic Trash: Wikipedia
Roland Geyer, lead author of the study and associate professor in environmental science and management at the University of California, Santa Barbara, US said that she was surprised that the numbers were larger than she had expected.
The number that shocks him the most, however, was the rapid increase in production.
Geyer said that half of the 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastics was made just in the last 13 years. He continued to say that total plastic that was made between 2004 and 2015 was almost equal to that made between 1950 and 2004.
A recent study found evidence that plastic was making its way into the Arctic Ocean.
There have been several studies on how the plastic is harming wildlife, with a focus on sea birds.
"I'm very concerned," Geyer said of plastic in the ocean. "But in a way I'm equally concerned with plastics in terrestrial ecosystems. We don't even really study the effects of plastics in terrestrial ecosystems. I'm worried that there could be all kinds of unintended adverse environmental consequences."
"We have to be really mindful of plastics," Geyer said. "I'm having the exact same struggle and challenges everyone else has. You come home from the supermarket and you're just amazed at how much packaging there is together with the produce and the food."
Besides plastic packaging, the use of plastic fibres in clothing like nylons and fleece has also grown. Between 1950 and 2015, it accounted for one billion tonnes of plastic.
The key, Geyer said, is to ask yourself if you need to buy a product with so much plastic. He notes that some companies like clothing company Patagonia are trying to reduce the amount of plastic in their products. Being mindful in your purchasing habits, reports said, is the key point.
"It's something as a society we collectively have to have a good think about," Geyer said. "There's a way to reduce and still have the same services and quality of life. And that would definitely be a simple way to address plastic waste generation; if we just make less in the first place."
Plastic is in almost everything we use. Now researchers have calculated the staggering amount of the synthetic material humans have produced since large-scale production began in the 1950s: 8.3 billion tonnes.
More disturbing, the researchers say, is the amount of plastic waste that humans have produced. Of the 8.3 billion tonnes we've made since 1950, 6.3 billion of that has already become waste.
The same team responsible for this study was behind a 2015 study that found somewhere between 4.8 million and 12.7 million tonnes of plastic from people living within 50 kilometres of coastlines had made its way into our oceans.
"Our estimate of eight million metric tonnes going into the oceans in 2010 is equivalent to five grocery bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world," said Jenna Jambeck, co-author of both studies, in a statement at the time. "This annual input increases each year, so our estimate for 2015 is about 9.1 million metric tons," she said.
"In 2025, the annual input would be about twice the 2010 input, or 10 bags full of plastic per foot of coastline," she said. "So the cumulative input by 2025 would equal 155 million metric tonnes."
The growth of plastics production in the past 65 years has reportedly outpaced any other manufactured material. But the properties of plastics such as in durability and resistance to degradation make these materials difficult or impossible for nature to assimilate.
A plan to end this plastic production n which billions of metric tons of material will accumulate across all major terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems on the planet.
The relative advantages and disadvantages of dematerialization, material recycling, waste-to-energy, and conversion technologies need to reportedly carefully considered to design the best solutions to the environmental challenges.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)