Introduction to plastic waste
Where do plastics come from? Plastics are made from polymers, a natural substance. Polymers are long chains of molecules found in the cell walls of plants. But humans managed to create synthetic polymers from atoms, such as those from petroleum and fossil fuels (crude oil, coal, and natural gas). These have longer chains of the molecule, a property that makes them very pliable and easily shaped. Plastics have become a very useful commodity today and there is hardly any product that does not have a plastic component. Plastic can be clear, soft, or elastic.
During and after World World II, plastic use in the USA increased by over 300%, as they came in cheaper than metal and wood. In the 1960s, humans became more environmentally conscious and the issue of plastic use came into focus. Today there is a massive push for legislation against the use of single-use plastic materials and also advocacy for plastic recycling. Whiles this is working in some areas, many recycled plastics still end up in landfill. Experts from the OECD project that global plastic use and waste will nearly triple by 2060 with a meager increase in plastic recycling, resulting in a doubling of global plastic pollution. The United States Department of Energy (U.S. DOE) estimated that the volume of plastic waste in the U.S. rose to 44 million metric tons in 2019, which is about 295 lbs per person. Source 1
*More than 10 million tonnes of post-consumer plastics waste were sent to recycling in 2020 in the EU (Countries in the European Union). In this Eu region, the plastics industry gave direct employment to more than 1.5 million people in 2021, a small increase compared to 2020. Source 2
Our research for this topic included these sources:
- (Greenpeace, CIRCULAR CLAIMS FALL FLAT AGAIN 2022 UPDATE, Page 6)
- 2. Plastics – the Facts 2022, Plastics Europe Report October 2022, https://plasticseurope.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/PE-PLASTICS-THE-FACTS_V7-Tue_19-10-1.pdf