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At the end of that year China introduced a complete ban on the imports of non-industrial plastic waste.73. Microplastics in bivalves cultured for human consumption. The data and visualizations which follow in this entry provide this overview step-by-step. License: All of Our World in Data is completely open access and all work is licensed under the Creative Commons BY license. Science of the Total Environment, 566, 333-349. Environmental Pollution, 214, 859–865 (2016). Available at: Wright, S., Rowe, D., Thompson, R. C. & Galloway, T. S. Microplastic ingestion decreases energy reserves in marine worms. The Chinese import ban and its impact on global plastic waste trade. This can ultimately lead to death. Plastic food packaging helps save food waste, we throw away one third of … Absolute figures (in tonnes per year) by country is available to explore here. As of 2016, we produce about 335 million metric tons every year (PDF), roughly half of which is single-use plastics like water bottles and straws that are discarded immediately after use. Ecology, 97(2), 302-312. Available at: We have many decades of legacy waste to contend with. Interaction – interaction includes collisions, obstructions, abrasions or use as substrate. Micro (nano) plastics: A threat to human health?. cumulative production of polymers, synthetic fibers and additives was 8300 million tonnes; 2500 million tonnes (30 percent) of primary plastics was still in use in 2015; 4600 million tonnes (55 percent) went straight to landfill or was discarded; 700 million tonnes (8 percent) was incinerated; 500 million tonnes (6 percent) was recycled (100 million tonnes of recycled plastic was still in use; 100 million tonnes was later incinerated; and 300 million tonnes was later discarded or sent to landfill). The GPGP comprised 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic, with a mass of 79,000 tonnes (approximately 29 percent of the 269,000 tonnes in the world’s surface oceans). Collectively, Central & North America, Europe and the Australia-Pacific region account for just over one percent of the world total. There is increasing evidence that microplastic ingestion can affect the consumption of prey, leading to energy depletion, inhibited growth and fertility impacts. High-income countries have very effect waste management systems; mismanaged waste – and plastic that ends up in the oceans – is therefore very rare. One of the most widely-quoted estimates is 250,000 tonnes.24. This would be expected since the majority of the world’s population – and in particular, coastal populations – live within the Northern Hemisphere. NOAA-TM-NMFS-SWFC-54. The world produces 381 million tonnes in plastic waste yearly – this is set to double by 2034. Continued research in this area is important to better understand the role of plastic within broader ecosystems and risk to human health. Available at: Cressey, D. (2016). This is supported by figures from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) which suggests abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear contributes approximately 10 percent to total ocean plastics.14, Other estimates allocate a slightly higher contribution of marine sources, at 28 percent of total ocean plastics.15. Environmental Pollution, 221, 141-149. Here we see an inverse-U curve pattern. This data is also presented in the review by Law (2017): Law, K. L. (2017). Evidence that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is rapidly accumulating plastic. All that plastic ending up in oceans is not without consequences. Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection, “Announcement of releasing the Catalogues of Imported Wastes Management,” (Announcement no. Scientific Reports 3:3263. Single and combined effects of microplastics and pyrene on juveniles (0+ group) of the common goby Pomatoschistus microps (Teleostei, Gobiidae). Therefore, 10-11 percent of China’s total plastic waste was imported from around the world. After correcting for these factors, the share of global mismanaged plastic waste by country is shown in the chart. Tallying plastic … Even less is known about how such particles interact in the body. Ingestion of microplastics have been shown to occur for many organisms. This is strongly reflected in the global distribution of. Environmental Pollution, 198, 211-222. Share of global total mismanaged plastic waste. Gall, S. C., & Thompson, R. C. (2015). The chart shows that by 2015, the world had produced 7.8 billion tonnes of plastic — more than one tonne of plastic for every person alive today. The short downturn in annual production in 2009 and 2010 was predominantly the result of the 2008 global financial crisis — a similar dent is seen across several metrics of resource production and consumption, including energy. Plastics are found in nondurable products, such as disposable diapers, trash bags, cups, utensils, medical devices and household items such as shower curtains. China contributes the highest share of mismanaged plastic waste with around 28 percent of the global total, followed by 10 percent in Indonesia, 6 percent for both the Philippines and Vietnam. As we see, Hong Kong typically acts as an entry point for Chinese imports; it is therefore the largest ‘exporting’ country to China. Mismanaged waste generation tends to be low at very low incomes (since per capita waste is small); it then rises towards middle incomes; and then falls again at higher incomes. 23, 1031–1033 (2013). Plastic waste breakdown by polymer type can be found here. Available at: in tissue) remains to be studied in detail.60 Micro- and nanoplastics in bivalves (mussels and oysters) cultured for human consumption have also been identified. In 2008, our global plastic consumption worldwide has been estimated at 260 million tons, and, according to a 2012 report by Global Industry Analysts, plastic consumption is to reach 297.5 million tons by the end of 2015. To figure out, imagine a world where all of today’s plastics were instead made of wood, rubber, metal, stone or glass. (2015). (2015) attempted to quantify the amount of plastic that could eventually enter the ocean across the world.9. 3. Unfortunately, much of the world’s plastic has ended up in the ocean, where, dispersed by currents, the stuff becomes virtually irretrievable, especially once it has fragmented into microplastics. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 1(5), 0116. This category includes bags, sacks and wraps; other packaging; polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles and jars; high-density polyethylene (HDPE) natural bottles; and other containers. 2. A global map of littered plastic from coastal populations (within 50 kilometres of a coastline) is shown here. While plastics are found in all major MSW categories, the containers and packaging category had the most plastic tonnage at over 14 million tons in 2017. There are three key pathways by which plastic debris can affect wildlife33: Entanglement – the entrapping, encircling or constricting of marine animals by plastic debris. Mismanaged waste could eventually enter the ocean via inland waterways, wastewater outflows, and transport by wind or tides.77, Plastic particles are typically grouped into categories depending on their size (as measured by their diameter). Three possible toxic effects of plastic particle have been suggested: the plastic particles themselves, the release of persistent organic pollutant adsorbed to the plastics, and leaching of plastic additives.67. Collectively, China and Hong Kong have imported 72.4 percent of global traded plastic waste (with most imports to Hong Kong eventually reaching China).72, This came to an end in 2017. The behaviors of microplastics in the marine environment. (2015) assume a rate of littering of 2 percent of total plastic waste generation across all countries.8. Non-pollen particulates in honey and sugar. Peer-reviewed publications of plastic impacts date back to the 1980s. The 150 companies that signed on to the report account for one-fifth of the plastic packaging produced in the world, estimates the Ellen MacArthur foundation. This is because we have a large legacy of plastics buried and awash on our shorelines which would continue to resurface and be transported to offshore regions; and existing plastics can persist in the ocean environment for many decades. In fact, if North America & Europe were to completely eliminate plastic use, global mismanaged plastic would decline by less than 5 percent.10, The data presented in the analysis above is for the year 2010; how is this global picture likely to change over time? This occurs as organisms at higher trophic levels eat significant masses of contaminated organisms at lower levels; with increased consumption, these concentrations can increase. For more comprehensive information, see the 2018 Data Tables on the Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures Report page. Most river plastic originates from Asia, which represents  86 percent of the global total. Day RH, Wehle DHS, Coleman FC. (2016). What is the relative contribution of each? Memo. Countries around the middle of the global income spectrum therefore tend to have the highest per capita mismanaged plastic rates. Production is expected to double by 2050. How has global plastic waste disposal method changed over time? We can see this breakdown of plastic particles by ocean basin here. The study by Lebreton, Egger and Slat challenges the previous hypotheses that plastics in the surface ocean have a very short lifetime, quickly degrade into microplastics and sink to greater depths. This chart shows the use of primary plastics by sector; in the chart we show these same sectors in terms of plastic waste generation. Note that this at least an order of magnitude lower than estimated inputs of plastics to the ocean; the discrepancy here relates to a surprising, but long-standing question in the research literature on plastics: “where is the missing plastic going?“. Brooks et al. These results are presented in the map as the share of global mismanaged waste by country, and aggregated by region. However, authors were still surprised by the quantity of plastic accumulation in Southern oceans — while it was lower than in the Northern Hemisphere, it was still of the same order of magnitude. Environmental Pollution, 223, 286-294. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper No. It can also provide environmental benefits: it plays a critical role in maintaining food quality, safety and reducing food waste. As shown, the majority of plastics by mass are large particles (macroplastics), whereas the majority in terms of particle count are microplastics (small particles). More than 10 times as much plastic has been found in the Atlantic ocean than previously estimated to be there, showing the the world’s plastic problem is likely to be much … The global plastic market size was valued at USD 568.9 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.2% from 2020 to 2027. Ecosystem structures can also be impacted by plastics following interference of substrate with plastics (impacting on light penetration, organic matter availability and oxygen exchange). The estimates for this figure range from around 4 to 12 million tonnes, with 8 million as a midpoint. The data below are from 1960 to 2018, relating to the total number of tons of plastics generated, recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery and landfilled. Wang, J., Tan, Z., Peng, J., Qiu, Q., & Li, M. (2016). Scientific Reports, 8(1), 4666. Whilst high-income countries tend to have effective waste management infrastructure and therefore very small quantities of inadequately disposed waste, they can contribute to plastics pollution by littering. The distribution and accumulation of ocean plastics is strongly influenced by oceanic surface currents and wind patterns. If true, this matters a lot for how much plastic we would expect in our surface oceans in the decades which follow. Offshore we find large plastic objects dating as far back as the 1950s and 1960s. Hint: Compare the cost, weight and flexibility of plastic items against similar materials made from wood, rubber, metal, stone or glass. The reported land area of Spain is approximately 500,000 square kilometres, and Alaska is an estimated 1.5 million square kilometres. How does plastic impact wildlife and human health? Foekema, E. M., De Gruijter, C., Mergia, M. T., van Franeker, J. The dominance of fishing lines, nets, hard plastics and films means that most of the mass in the GPGP had a large particle size (meso- and macroplastics). Nature News, 536(7616), 263. This makes it at risk of leakage and transport to the natural environment and oceans via waterways, winds and tides. Most of the plastic that ends up in our oceans does so because of poor waste management practices – particularly in low-to-middle income countries; this means that good waste management across the world is essential to achieving this. This can transport plastic waste from further inland to coastal areas where it can enter the ocean. Washington, DC: Natl. This is crucial, not only in understanding the scale of the problem but in implementing the most effective interventions for reduction. Available at: Collectively, these countries are responsible for around 76 percent of its imports. Fishing gear, for example, has been shown to cause abrasion and damage to coral reef ecosystems upon collision. How do we dispose of our plastic? Marine Pollution Bulletin 111, 213–220 (2016). EPA measures the generation, recycling, composting, combustion with energy recovery and landfilling of plastic materials in municipal solid waste. 2013. 523; UNEP Regional Seas Reports and Studies No. There are several ways by which plastic particles can be ingested: orally through water, consumption of marine products which contain microplastics, through the skin via cosmetics (identified as highly unlikely but possible), or inhalation of particles in the air.55, It is possible for microplastics to be passed up to higher levels in the food chain. Available at: Microplastics and mesoplastics in fish from coastal and fresh waters of China. Available at: Lebreton, L. C., Van der Zwet, J., Damsteeg, J. W., Slat, B., Andrady, A., & Reisser, J. Marine Environmental Research, 113, 7-17.

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