The scale of the global plastic waste crisis has reached mind-boggling proportions. Nearly 15% of the world’s plastic waste – over 40 megatons – becomes plastic pollution that enters our environment every year. This animated short produced by the NSF Center for Sustainable Polymers illustrates the scale of the plastic waste problem.
According to a recent report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the average U.S. person generates about one third of a kilogram of plastic every day.
And for every 3000 people, that’s 1 metric ton of plastic generated per day.
If we multiply that amount by the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro population of about 3.1 million people, each day the Twin Cities averages over 1 million kilograms of plastic waste per day which is 1,000 metric tons or a kiloton of plastic waste.
In a month that number grows to over 30 thousand metric tons.
Using a population of 332 million people in the United States, in 1 day we generate nearly 113,000 metric tons of plastic waste. In one month, this is over 3.3 million tons or 3.3 megatons of plastic waste. That is 3.3. billion kilograms of plastic waste generated in the US every month.
Of course, the plastics waste crisis is global. In 2018, the UN Environment Programme estimated that in one year more than whopping 300 million metric tons of plastic waste were generated worldwide, that’s 300 megatons. That’s an enormous amount of plastic waste produced annually.
And unfortunately, according to a recent study published in Science magazine, nearly 15% of that, over 40 megatons becomes plastic pollution that enters our environment every year. The authors conclude that “Substantial commitments to improving the global plastic system are required from businesses, governments, and the international community to solve the ecological, social, and economic problems of plastic pollution and achieve near-zero input of plastics into the environment.”
Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation (NSF).