The Plastic Garbage Now Equals the World’s Population in terms of Tons

Plastic trash increased 4-fold since 1950. Image credits: Janet A Beckley / University of Georgia

Today, one can witness a large amount of plastic presence amongst us, in our society and is causing a high negative impact on our Mother Earth. More than 9 billion tons of plastic has been rapidly produced since 1950 and is still present in our environment.

A contemporary research reveals that the global distribution and manufacturing of the plastics became highly increasing and popular since the World War II and only 2 billion tons of that plastic is still in use, or rather recycled. More than 7 billion tons of plastic is stuck on the Earth as garbage, including on land and under the ocean.


A lot of birds and underwater animals such as whales and fishes have consumed the plastic, assuming it be a food product.This has led to their death and an alarming decrease in their population. A large amount of plastic garbage has been retrieved from the bellies of these dead animals.


Today, the use of plastic is widely seen in the supermarkets and grocery stores. It is present in front of you, in the form of a water bottle, a lunch-container, take-away container or a coffee to-go cup. It is also present in your office environment in the form of chairs, windows, cupboards, or computer keyboards. Most of the buildings, especially the residential ones, utilize plastic to construct the pipes that carry the flow of water.

In short, plastic has become an integral part of the human life and society and it is being used anywhere and everywhere. Humans keep producing more plastic and dump them without an organized method, in spite of knowing the hazards caused by excessive accumulation of plastic on the Earth.


The study also reveals that during the 1960’s, plastic was responsible for 1 percent of the garbage in municipal landfills across the globe. According to the report published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences states that amount of plastic debris floating in the open ocean is nearly 7,000 to 35,000 of tons.

“As of 2015, of the nearly 7 billion tons of plastic waste generated, only 9% was recycled, 12% incinerated (using thermal treatments such as combustion or pyrolysis, decomposition under high temperatures), and 79% accumulated in landfills or the environment”, said American Association for the Advancement of Science in a published statement. The full volume data is published in the Journal Science Advances.

Plastic trash since 1950
Plastic trash increased 4-fold since 1950. Image credits: Janet A Beckley / University of Georgia

Roland Geyer, one of the authors of the above-mentioned study reveals, “It’s a surprise for me to see the implication of the large growth rate of the plastic usage”.


China, Europe, and North America are the major producers of plastic. But, every nation is equally responsible for the production of plastic on a wide scale.

The United States lags behind China and Europe when it comes to the concept of recycling the plastic material. The study claims that the highest recycling rates in 2014 belong to Europe (30%), followed by China (25%), and then the US (9%).

“If this current trend of plastic usage increases, then, nearly 13 billion tons of plastic will be discarded in the environment by the end of 2050”. Geyer also added.

The authors of the study hope that the politicians and environmentalists across the globe would pay a heed to the rising production of the plastic waste which is being generated at a high rate.There are a couple of industrial regulations which should be adhered by when you use plastics. One should understand that burning plastics can lead to an increase in the production of harmful elements, thus, increasing the air pollution.

If not taken care of, very soon, we can find the presence of plastic everywhere, including soil, ocean, and sediment of the ocean floor.

Source Science Advances AAAS

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