An Overview of the World's Demand for Plastic
Written by: Clare Peine
Plastic has become a large part of our everyday lives in the last 50 years. From food packaging, to our clothing, to the toys we played with as children. The fact is that plastic is an important part of our daily lives, but do we know how much of it we have?
When looking through research on plastic pollution, I have found that there is a much larger demand for plastic than I had ever anticipated. I was so used to seeing plastic everywhere around me that I never stopped to think about where it goes after its use. Plastic production has increased dramatically in recent years. In the plastic pollution research compiled by Our World In Data, 70 years ago, the world only produced 2 million tons of plastic per year. In 2015, the production of plastic has increased to 381 million tons per year. Cumulatively, Earth now has 7.8 billion tons of plastic, a product that takes more than 100 years to decompose. There is now 1 ton of plastic per person on this planet.
With so much plastic being produced, the major question that follows is what do we use it for? This plastic research breaks it down into different sectors.
146 million tons of plastic each year are created for packaging. Packaging would include the plastic used to package food, toys, batteries, tape, etc. When you take a moment to think about it, it's a little scary how much plastic is used. I recently started transitioning to a low waste lifestyle, and by doing so, I became more aware of how much of what I was eating came in plastic. When walking through the aisles of Walmart, I noticed how nearly everything was packaged in plastic. Milk was in a plastic jug, grapes in a plastic bag, deli meat in a plastic container, etc. Even if I wanted to get fresh produce, I needed to put it in a plastic bag to transport it home.
The average American in 2010 created around .36kg, or 12 oz of plastic waste per day, which means that per year, an American creates about 274 pounds of plastic waste. Countries like Kuwait, Guyana, Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland, and the United States all created the most plastic waste per capita. Our World in Data also found that when it comes to the plastic waste generated by a country, China in 2010 was in the lead with a little more than 59 million tons of plastic per year. The United States came in 3rd place with 38 million tons.
With all of this plastic waste, how much of it ends up in the ocean? At Seaside Sustainability we are extremely aware that plastic in the oceans are harmful for the environment.
The plastic in the world's oceans can come from either land or marine sources. Land sources would be plastic waste from people and companies, while marine sources would be fishing fleets and cruise ships. It is estimated that about 80% of plastic that ends up in the ocean comes from land, the other 20% is all fishing nets, lines, and ropes that come from marine sources.
You can learn more about plastic from this website: https://ourworldindata.org/plastic-pollution or by checking out the multiple informative posts about plastics (micro and macro ones) on our blog!