ArticlePDF Available

Abstract and Figures

Plastics have outgrown most man-made materials and have long been under environmental scrutiny. However, robust global information, particularly about their end-of-life fate, is lacking. By identifying and synthesizing dispersed data on production, use, and end-of-life management of polymer resins, synthetic fibers, and additives, we present the first global analysis of all mass-produced plastics ever manufactured. We estimate that 8300 million metric tons (Mt) as of virgin plastics have been produced to date. As of 2015, approximately 6300 Mt of plastic waste had been generated, around 9% of which had been recycled, 12% was incinerated, and 79% was accumulated in landfills or the natural environment. If current production and waste management trends continue, roughly 12,000 Mt of plastic waste will be in landfills or in the natural environment by 2050.
Content may be subject to copyright.
PLASTICS Copyright © 2017
The Authors, some
rights reserved;
exclusive licensee
American Association
for the Advancement
of Science. No claim to
original U.S. Government
Works. Distributed
under a Creative
Commons Attribution
License 4.0 (CC BY-NC).
Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made
Roland Geyer,
* Jenna R. Jambeck,
Kara Lavender Law
Plastics have outgrown most man-made materials and have long been under environmental scrutiny. However,
robust global information, particularly about their end-of-life fate, is lacking. By identifying and synthesizing dis-
persed data on production, use, and end-of-life management of polymer resins, synthetic fibers, and additives, we
present the first global analysis of all mass-produced plastics ever manufactured. We estimate that 8300 million
metric tons (Mt) as of virgin plastics have been produced to date. As of 2015, approximately 6300 Mt of plastic waste
had been generated, around 9% of which had been recycled, 12% was incinerated, and 79% was accumulated in land-
fills or the natural environment. If current production and waste management trends continue, roughly 12,000 Mt of
plastic waste will be in landfills or in the natural environment by 2050.
A world without plastics, or synthetic organic polymers, seems un-
imaginable today, yet their large-scale production and use only dates
back to ~1950. Although the first synthetic plastics, such as Bakelite,
appeared in the early 20th century, widespread use of plastics outside
of the military did not occur until after World War II. The ensuing
rapid growth in plastics production is extraordinary, surpassing most
other man-made materials. Notable exceptions are materials that are
used extensively in the construction sector, such as steel and cement
Instead, plasticslargest market is packaging, an application whose
growth was accelerated by a global shift from reusable to single-use
containers. As a result, the share of plastics in municipal solid waste
(by mass) increased from less than 1% in 1960 to more than 10% by
2005 in middle- and high-income countries (3). At the same time,
global solid waste generation, which is strongly correlated with gross
national income per capita, has grown steadily over the past five dec-
ades (4,5).
The vast majority of monomers used to make plastics, such as eth-
ylene and propylene, are derived from fossil hydrocarbons.None of the
commonly used plastics are biodegradable. As a result, they accumu-
late, rather than decompose, i n landfills or the natural environment (6).
The only way to permanently eliminate plastic waste is by destructive
contamination of the natural environment with plastic waste is a grow-
ing concern. Plastic debris has been found in all major ocean basins (6),
with an estimated 4 to 12 million metric tons (Mt) of plastic waste
generated on land entering the marine environment in 2010 alone
(3). Contamination of freshwater systems and terrestrial habitats is
also increasingly reported (79), as is environmental contamination with
synthetic fibers (9,10). Plastic waste is now so ubiquitous in the
environment that it has been suggested as a geological indicator of the
proposed Anthropocene era (11).
We present the first global analysis of all mass-produced plastics
ever made by developing and combining global data on production,
use, and end-of-life fate of polymer resins, synthetic fibers, and addi-
tives into a comprehensive material flow model. The analysis includes
thermoplastics, thermosets, polyurethanes (PURs), elastomers, coatings,
and sealants but focuses on the most prevalent resins and fibers: high-
density polyethylene (PE), low-density and linear low-density PE,
polypropylene (PP), polystyrene (PS), polyvinylchloride (PVC), poly-
ethylene terephthalate (PET), and PUR resins; and polyester, poly-
amide, and acrylic (PP&A) fibers. The pure polymer is mixed with
additives to enhance the properties of the material.
Global production of resins and fibers increased from 2 Mt in 1950 to
380 Mt in 2015, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.4%
(table S1), roughly 2.5 times the CAGR of the global gross domestic
product during that period (12,13). The total amount of resins and fi-
bers manufactured from 1950 through 2015 is 7800 Mt. Half of this
3900 Mtwas produced in just the past 13 years. Today, China alone
accounts for 28% of global resin and 68% of global PP&A fiber pro-
duction (1315). Bio-based or biodegradable plastics currently have
a global production capacity of only 4 Mt and are excluded from this
analysis (16).
We compiled production statistics for resins, fibers, and additives
from a variety of industry sources and synthesized them according to
type and consuming sector (table S2 and figs. S1 and S2) (1224). Data
on fiber and additives production are not readily available and have
typically been omitted until now. On average, we find that nonfiber
plastics contain 93% polymer resin and 7% additives by mass. When
including additives in the calculation, the amount of nonfiber plastics
(henceforth defined asresins plus additives) manufactured since 1950
increases to 7300 Mt. PP&A fibers add another 1000 Mt. Plasticizers,
fillers, and flame retardants account for about three quarters of all ad-
ditives (table S3). The largest groups in total nonfiber plastics produc-
tion are PE (36%), PP (21%), and PVC (12%), followed by PET, PUR,
and PS (<10% each). Polyester, most of which is PET, accounts for
70% of all PP&A fiber production. Together, these seven groups ac-
count for 92% of all plastics ever made. Approximately 42% of all non-
fiber plastics have been used for packaging, which is predominantly
composed of PE, PP, and PET. The building and construction sector,
which has used 69% of all PVC, is the next largest consuming sector,
using 19% of all nonfiber plastics (table S2).
We combined plastic production data with product lifetime distri-
butions for eight different industrial use sectors, or product categories,
to model how long plastics are in use before they reach the end of their
useful lifetimes and are discarded (22,2529). We assumed log-
normal distributions with means ranging from less than 1 year, for
packaging, to decades, for building and construction (Fig. 1). This is
a commonly used modeling approach to estimating waste generation
Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California,
Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA.
College of Engineering, University
of Georgia, 412 Driftmier Engineering Center, Athens, GA 30602, USA.
Sea Edu-
cation Association, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA.
*Corresponding author. Email:
Geyer, Jambeck, Law Sci. Adv. 2017; 3: e1700782 19 July 2017 1of5
on July 20, 2017 from
for specific materials (22,25,26). A more direct way to measure plastic
waste generation is to combine solid waste generation data with waste
characterization information, as in the study of Jambeck et al. (3).
However, for many countries, these data are not available inthe detail
and quality required for the present analysis.
We estimate that in 2015, 407 Mt of primary plastics (plastics
manufactured from virgin materials) entered the use phase, whereas
302 Mt left it. Thus, in 2015, 105 Mt were added to the in-use stock.
For comparison, we estimate that plastic waste generation in 2010 was
274 Mt, which is equal to the independently derived estimate of
275 Mt by Jambeck et al. (3). The different product lifetimes lead to
a substantial shift in industrial use sector and polymer type between
plastics entering and leaving use in any given year (tables S4 and S5
and figs. S1 to S4). Most of the packaging plastics leave use the same
year they are produced, whereas construction plastics leaving use were
produced decades earlier, when production quantities were much
lower. For example, in 2015, 42% of primary nonfiber plastics produced
(146 Mt) entered use as packaging and 19% (65 Mt) as construction,
whereas nonfiber plastic waste leaving use was 54% packaging (141 Mt)
and only 5% construction(12 Mt). Similarly, in 2015, PVC accounted
for 11% of nonfiber plastics production (38 Mt) and only 6% of non-
fiber plastic waste generation (16 Mt).
By the end of 2015, all plastic waste ever generated from primary
plastics had reached 5800 Mt, 700 Mt of which were PP&A fibers.
There are essentially three different fates for plastic waste. First, it
can be recycled or reprocessed into a secondary material (22,26).
Recycling delays, rather than avoids, final disposal. It reduces future
plastic waste generation only if itdisplaces primary plastic production
(30); however, because of its counterfactual nature, this displacement
is extremely difficult to establish (31). Furthermore, contamination
and the mixing of polymer types generate secondary plastics of limited
or low technical and economic value. Second, plastics can be destroyed
thermally. Although there are emerging technologies, such as pyrolysis,
which extracts fuel from plastic waste, to date, virtually all thermal
destruction has been by incineration, with or without energy recovery.
The environmental and health impacts of waste incinerators strongly
depend on emission control technology, as well as incinerator design
and operation. Finally, plastics can be discarded and either contained
in a managed system, such as sanitary landfills, or left uncontained in
open dumps or in the natural environment.
We estimate that 2500 Mt of plasticsor 30% of all plastics ever
producedare currently in use. Between 1950 and 2015, cumulative
waste generation of primary and secondary (recycled) plastic waste
amounted to 6300 Mt. Of this, approximately 800 Mt (12%) of plastics
Fig. 1. Product lifetime distributions for the eight industrial use sectors plotted as log-normal probability distribution functions (PDF). Note that sectors other
and textiles have the same PDF.
Fig. 2. Global production, use, and fate of polymer resins, synthetic fibers, and additives (1950 to 2015; in million metric tons).
Geyer, Jambeck, Law Sci. Adv. 2017; 3: e1700782 19 July 2017 2of5
on July 20, 2017 from
have been incinerated and 600 Mt (9%) have been recycled, only 10%
of which have been recycled more than once. Around 4900 Mt60%
of all plastics ever producedwere discarded and are accumulating in
landfills or in the natural environment (Fig. 2). Of this, 600 Mt were
PP&A fibers. None of the mass-produced plastics biodegrade in any
meaningful way; however, sunlight weakens the materials, causing
fragmentation into particles known to reach millimeters or micro-
meters in size (32). Research into the environmental impacts of these
microplasticsin marine and freshwater environments has accelerated
in recent years (33), but little is known about the impacts of plastic
waste in land-based ecosystems.
Before 1980, plastic recycling and incineration were negligible. Since
then, only nonfiber plastics have been subject to significant recycling
efforts. The following results apply to nonfiber plastic only: Global recy-
cling and incineration rates have slowly increased to account for 18 and
24%, respectively, of nonfiber plastic waste generated in 2014 (figs. S5
and S6). On the basis of limited available data, the highest recycling
rates in 2014 were in Europe (30%) and China (25%), whereas in the
United States, plastic recycling has remained steady at 9% since 2012
(12,13,3436). In Europe and China, incineration rates have increased
over time to reach 40 and 30%, respectively, in 2014 (13,35). However,
in the United States, nonfiber plastics incineration peaked at 21% in
1995 before decreasing to 16% in 2014 as recycling rates increased, with
discard rates remaining constant at 75% during that time period (34).
Waste management information for 52 other countries suggests that in
2014, the rest of the world had recycling and incineration rates similar
to those of the United States (37). To date, end-of-life textiles (fiber
products) do not experience significant recycling rates and are thus
incinerated or discarded together with other solid waste.
Primary plastics production data describe a robust time trend
throughout its entire history. If production were to continue on this
curve, humankind will have produced 26,000 Mt of resins, 6000 Mtof
PP&A fibers, and 2000 Mt of additives by the end of 2050. Assuming
consistent use patterns and projecting current global waste manage-
ment trends to 2050 (fig. S7), 9000 Mt of plastic waste will have been
recycled, 12,000 Mt incinerated, and 12,000 Mt discarded in landfills
or the natural environment (Fig. 3).
Any material flow analysis of this kind requires multiple assump-
tions or simplifications, which are listed in Materials and Methods,
and is subject to considerable uncertainty; as such, all cumulative results
are rounded to the nearest 100 Mt. The largest sources of uncertainty
are the lifetime distributions of the product categories and the plastic
incineration and recycling rates outside of Europe and the United States.
Increasing/decreasing the mean lifetimes of all product categories by
1 SD changes the cumulative primary plastic waste generation (for 1950 to
2015) from 5900 to 4600/6200 Mt or by 4/+5%. Increasing/decreasing
current global incineration and recycling rates by 5%, and adjusting the
time trends accordingly, changes the cumulative discarded plastic waste
from 4900 (for 1950 to 2015) to 4500/5200 Mt or by 8/+6%.
The growth of plastics production inthe past 65 years has substan-
tially outpaced any other manufactured material. The same properties
that make plastics so versatile in innumerable applicationsdurability
and resistance to degradationmake these materials difficult or im-
possible for nature to assimilate. Thus, without a well-designed and
tailor-made management strategy for end-of-life plastics, humans
are conducting a singular uncontrolled experiment on a global scale,
in which billions of metric tons of material will accumulate across all
major terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems on the planet. The relative
advantages and disadvantages of dematerialization, substitution, reuse,
material recycling, waste-to-energy, and conversion technologies must
be carefully considered to design the best solutions to the environmental
challenges posed by the enormous and sustained global growth in
plastics production and use.
Plastic production
The starting point of the plastic production model is global annual
pure polymer (resin) production data from 1950 to 2015, published
by the Plastics Europe Market Research Group, and global annual
Fig. 3. Cumulative plastic waste generation and disposal (in million metric tons). Solid lines show historical data from 1950 to 2015; dashed lines show projections
of historical trends to 2050.
Geyer, Jambeck, Law Sci. Adv. 2017; 3: e1700782 19 July 2017 3of5
on July 20, 2017 from
fiber production data from 1970 to 2015 published by The Fiber Year
and Tecnon OrbiChem (table S1). The resin data closely follow a
second-order polynomial time trend, which generated a fit of R
0.9968. The fiber data closely follow a third-order polynomial time
trend, which generated a fit of R
= 0.9934. Global breakdowns of total
production by polymer type and industrial use sector were derived
from annual market and polymer data for North America, Europe,
China, and India (table S2) (12,13,1924). U.S. and European data
are available for 2002 to 2014. Polymer type and industrial use sector
breakdowns of polymer production are similar across countries
and regions.
Global additives production data, which are not publicly available,
were acquired from market research companies and cross-checked for
consistency (table S3) (17,18). Additives data are available for 2000 to
2014. Polymer type and industrial use sector breakdowns of polymer
productionand the additives to polymer fraction were both stable over
the time period for which data are available and thus assumed con-
stant throughout the modeling period of 19502015. Any errors in
the early decades were mitigated by the lower production rates in those
years. Additives data were organized by additive type and industrial
use sector and integrated with the polymer data. P
(t) denotes the
amount of primary plastics (that is, polymers plus additives) produced
in year tand used in sector i(fig. S1).
Plastic waste generation and fate
Plastics use was characterized by discretized log-normal distributions,
(j), which denotes the fraction of plastics in industrial use sector i
used for jyears (Fig. 1). Mean values and SDs were gathered from pub-
lished literature (table S4) (22,2529). Product lifetimes may vary sig-
nificantly across economies and also across demographic groups,
which is why distributions were used and sensitivity analysis was con-
ducted with regard to mean product lifetimes. The total amount of
primary plastic waste generated in year twas calculated as PW (t)=
j¼1PiðtjÞLTDiðjÞ(figs. S3 and S4). Secondary plastic waste
generated in year twas calculated as the fraction of total plastic waste that
was recycled kyears ago, SW (t)=[PW(tk)+SW(tk)][RR (tk)],
where kis the average use time of secondary plastics and RR (tk)is
the global recycling rate in year tk. Amounts of plastic waste discarded
and incinerated are calculated as DW(t)=[PW(t)+SW(t)DR(t)and
IW(t) = [PW(t) + SW(t)] IR(t), with DR(t) and IR(t) being the global
discard and incineration rates in year t(fig. S5). Cumulative values at
time Twere calculated as the sum over all T1950 years of plastics mass
production. Examples are cumulative primary production CPiðTÞ¼
t¼1950 PiðtÞand cumulative primary plastic waste generation,
t¼1950 PWðtÞ(Fig. 3).
Recycling, incineration, and discard rates
Time series for resin, that is, nonfiber recycling, incineration, and dis-
card rates were collected separately for four world regions: the United
States, the EU-28 plus Norway and Switzerland, China, and the rest of
the world. Detailed and comprehensive solid waste management data
for the United States were published by the U.S. Environmental Pro-
tection Agency dating back to 1960 (table S7) (34). European data
were from several reports by PlasticsEurope, which collectively cover
1996 to 2014 (12,13,38). Chinese data were synthesized and recon-
ciled from the English version of the China Statistical Yearbook, trans-
lations of Chinese publications and government reports, and
additional waste management literature (35,36,3941). Waste man-
agement for the rest of the world was based on World Bank data (37).
Time series for global recycling, incineration, and discard rates (fig. S5)
were derived by adding the rates of the four regions weighted by their
relative contribution to global plastic waste generation. In many world
regions, waste management data were sparse and of poor quality. For
this reason, sensitivity analysis with regard to waste management rates
was conducted.
The resulting global nonfiber recycling rate increased at a constant
0.7% per annum (p.a.) between 1990 and 2014. If this linear trend is
assumed to continue, the global recycling rate would reach 44% in
2050. The global nonfiber incineration rate has grown more unevenly
but, on average, increased 0.7% p.a.between 1980 and 2014. Assuming
an annual increase of 0.7% between 2014 and 2050 yielded a global
incineration rate of 50% by 2050. With those two assumptions, global
discard rate would decrease from 58% in 2014 to 6% in 2050 (fig. S7).
The dashed lines in Fig. 3 are based on those assumptions and there-
fore simply forward projections of historical global trends and should
not be mistaken for a prediction or forecast. There is currently no sig-
nificant recycling of synthetic fibers. It was thus assumed that end-of-
life textiles are incinerated and discarded together with all other
municipal solid waste.
Supplementary material for this article is available at
fig. S1. Global primary plastics production (in million metric tons) according to industrial use
sector from 1950 to 2015.
fig. S2. Global primary plastics production (in million metric tons) according to polymer type
from 1950 to 2015.
fig. S3. Global primary plastics waste generation (in million metric tons) according to industrial
use sector from 1950 to 2015.
fig. S4. Global primary plastics waste generation (in million metric tons) according to polymer
type from 1950 to 2015.
fig. S5. Estimated percentage of global (nonfiber) plastic waste recycled, incinerated, and
discarded from 1950 to 2014 [(12,13,3442) and table S7].
fig. S6. Annual global primary and secondary plastic waste generation TW (t), recycling RW (t),
incineration IW (t), and discard DW (t) (in million metric tons) from 1950 to 2014.
fig. S7. Projection of global trends in recycling, incineration, and discard of plastic waste from
1980 to 2014 (to the left of vertical black line) to 2050 (to the right of vertical black line).
table S1. Annual global polymer resin and fiber production in million metric tons (1215).
table S2. Share of total polymer resin production according to polymer type and industrial use
sector calculated from data for Europe, the United States, China, and India covering the period
20022014 (12,13,1924).
table S3. Share of additive type in global plastics production from data covering the period
20002014 (17,18).
table S4. Baseline mean values and SDs used to generate log-normal product lifetime
distributions for the eight industrial use sectors used in this study (22,2529).
table S5. Global primary plastics production and primary waste generation (in million metric
tons) in 2015 according to industrial use sector.
table S6. Global primary plastics production and primary waste generation (in million metric
tons) in 2015 according to polymer type/additive.
table S7. Additional data sources for U.S. plastics recycling and incineration.
table S8. Complete list of data sources.
1. World Steel Association (WSA), Steel Statistical Yearbooks 1978 to 2016;www.worldsteel.
2. U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Cement Statistics and Information;https://minerals.usgs.
3. J. R. Jambeck, R. Geyer, C. Wilcox, T. R. Siegler, M. Perryman, A. Andrady, R. Narayan,
K. L. Law, Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. Science 347, 768771 (2015).
4. D. Hoornweg, P. Bhada-Tata, C. Kennedy, Environment: Waste production must peak
this century. Nature 502, 615617 (2013).
5. D. C. Wilson, Global Waste Management Outlook (International Solid Waste Association
and United National Environment Programme, 2015).
Geyer, Jambeck, Law Sci. Adv. 2017; 3: e1700782 19 July 2017 4of5
on July 20, 2017 from
6. D. K. A. Barnes, F. Galgani, R. C. Thompson, M. Barlaz, Accumulation and
fragmentation of plastic debris in global environments. Philos.Trans.R.Soc.B364,
19851998 (2009).
7. M. Wagner, C. Scherer, D. Alvarez-Muñoz, N. Brennholt, X. Bourrain, S. Buchinger, E. Fries,
C. Grosbois, J. Klasmeier, T. Marti, S. Rodriguez-Mozaz, R. Urbatzka, A. D. Vethaak,
M. Winther-Nielsen, G. Geifferscheid, Microplastics in freshwater ecosystems: What we
know and what we need to know. Environ. Sci. Eur. 26, 12 (2014).
8. M. C. Rillig, Microplastic in terrestrial ecosystems and the soil? Environ. Sci. Technol.
46, 64536454 (2012).
9. K. A. V. Zubris, B. K. Richards, Synthetic fibers as an indicator of land application of sludge.
Environ. Pollut. 138, 201211 (2005).
10. R Dris, J Gasperi, C Mirande, C Mandin, M Guerrouache, V Langlois, B. Tassin, A first
overview of textile fibers, including microplastics, in indoor and outdoor environments.
Environ. Pollut. 221, 453458 (2016).
11. J. Zalasiewicz, Colin N. Waters, Juliana Ivardo Sul, Patricia L. Corcoran, Anthony D. Barnosky,
Alejandro Cearreta, Matt Edgeworth, Agnieszka Gałuszka, Catherine Jeandel,
Reinhold Leinfelder, J.R. McNeill, Will Steffen, Colin Summerhayes, Michael Wagreich,
Mark Williams, Alexander P. Wolfe, Yasmin Yonan, The geological cycle of plastics
and their use as a stratigraphic indicator of the Anthropocene. Anthropocene 13,
417 (2016).
12. PlasticsEurope, The Compelling Facts About Plastics: An Analysis of Plastic Production,
Demand and Recovery for 2006 in Europe (PlasticsEurope, 2006).
13. PlasticsEurope, PlasticsThe Facts 2016: An Analysis of European Plastics Production,
Demand and Waste Data (PlasticsEurope, 2016).
14. The Fiber Year, The Fiber Year 2017: World Survey on Textiles & Nonwovens (The Fiber
Year GmbH, 2017).
15. J. Mills, Polyester & Cotton: Unequal Competitors,Tecnon OrbiChem presentation at
Association Française Cotonnière (AFCOT), Deauville, France, 6 October 2011.
16. European Bioplastics, BioplasticsFacts and Figures (European Bioplastics, 2017).
17. Global Industry Analysis (GIA), Plastic Additives: A Global Strategic Business Report
(MCP-2122, GIA, 2008).
18. S. Rajaram, Plastic Additives: The Global Market(PLS022B, BCC Research, 2009).
19. American Chemistry Council (ACC), Resin Review: The Annual Statistical Report of the North
American Plastics Industry (ACC, 2009).
20. Plastemart, China leads in growth of polymers & plastic products;
21. Indian Petrochemical Industry: Country Paper from India, Asia Petrochemical Industry
Conference, Seoul, South Korea, 7 to 8 May 2015 (Chemical and Petrochemicals
ManufacturersAssociation India, 2016).
22. N. H. Mutha, M. Patel, V. Premnath, Plastics material flow analysis for India. Resour.
Conserv. Recycl. 47, 222244 (2006).
23. American Chemistry Council (ACC), Resin Review: The Annual Statistical Report of the North
American Plastics Industry (ACC, 2012).
24. American Chemistry Council (ACC), Resin Review: The Annual Statistical Report of the North
American Plastics Industry (ACC, 2013).
25. J. Davis, R. Geyer, J. Ley, J. He, T. Jackson, R. Clift, A. Kwan, M. Sansom, Time-dependent
material flow analysis of iron and steel in the UK: Part 2. Scrap generation and recycling.
Resour. Conserv. Recycl. 51, 118140 (2007).
26. B. Kuczenski, R. Geyer, Material flow analysis of polyethylene terephthalate in the US,
19962007. Resour. Conserv. Recycl. 54, 11611169 (2010).
27. S. Murakami, M. Oguchi, T. Tasaki, I. Daigo, S. Hashimoto, Lifespan of commodities,
part I: The creation of a database and its review. J. Ind. Ecol. 14, 598612 (2010).
28. D. R. Cooper, A. C. H. Skelton, M. C. Moynihan, J. M. Allwood, Component level strategies for
exploiting the lifespan of steel in products. Resour. Conserv. Recycl. 84,2434 (2014).
29. Drycleaning Institute of Australia, International Fair Claims Guide for Consumer Textiles
Products (Drycleaning Institute of Australia, 2015).
30. R. Geyer, B. Kuczenski, T. Zink, A. Henderson, Common misconceptions about recycling.
J. Ind. Ecol. 20, 10101017 (2015).
31. T. Zink, R. Geyer, D. Startz, Toward estimating displaced production from recycling:
A case study of U.S. aluminum. J. Ind. Ecol. 10.1111/jiec.12557 (2017).
32. A. L. Andrady, Plastics and Environmental Sustainability (John Wiley & Sons, 2015).
33. C. M. Rochman, M. A. Browne, A. J. Underwood, J. A. van Franeker, R. C. Thompson,
L. A. Amaral-Zettler, The ecological impacts of marine debris: Unraveling the demonstrated
evidence from what is perceived. Ecology 97, 302312 (2016).
34. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling,
and Disposal in the United States: Tables and Figures for 2012 (EPA, 2014).
35. National Bureau of Statics of China, Annual Data, China Statistical Yearbook, 1996-2016;
36. M. Zhan-feng, Z. Bing, China plastics recycling industry in 2008. China Plastics 23,
7 (2009).
37. D. Hoornweg, P. Bhada-Tata, What a Waste: A Global Review of Solid Waste Management
(Urban Development Series Knowledge Papers, World Bank, 2012).
38. Consultic, Post-Consumer Plastics Waste Management in European Countries 2014 EU28 + 2
Countries, Final report, PlasticsEurope, October 2015.
39. R. Linzner, S. Salhofer, Municipal solid waste recycling and the significance of the
informal sector in urban China. Waste Manage. Res. 32, 896907 (2014).
40. National Development and Reform Commission of China, Annual Report on
Comprehensive Utilization of Resources in China 2014;
41. China Ministry of Commerce, China Renewable Resources Recycling Industry
Development Report 2016;
42. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Municipal Solid Waste in the Unites States:
2011 Facts and Figures (EPA530-R-13-001, U.S. EPA, 2013).
Acknowledgments: We thank C.-J. Simon and R. Nayaran f or providing polymer productio n
data and G.L. Maho ney for designin g Fig. 2. We especially thank I. Creel man and R. Song
for data collecti on and model impleme ntation, E. Smith for assistance in compiling the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and China solid waste management data, S. Wang for
researching Ch ina plastic wast e management and tr anslation of art icles, J. Chamberlain
for researchi ng additives, and I. MacAdam-Somer for researching synthetic fibers. This
work benefitted from helpful discussions with T. Siegler and C. Rochman and comments
from two anonymous reviewers. Funding: This work was conducted within the Mar ine
Debris Working Group at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synt hesis,
University of California, Santa Barbara, with su pport from Ocean Conservancy. R.G. was
supported by the NSF Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems
grant #1335478. Author contributions: R.G. led the re search design, data collection, model
development, ca lculations, interpretation of results, and writing of the manuscript;
J.R.J. contrib uted to research design, data collection, model development, and int erpretation
of results; K.L.L. contributed to research desi gn, analysis and interpretatio n of results,
and writing of the manuscript. Com peting interes ts: The authors declare that they have
no competing interests. Data and materials availability: All data needed to eval uate
the conclusion s in the paper are pre sent in the paper and/or the Supplementary Materials.
Additional data related to this paper may be requested from the author s.
Submitted 9 March 2017
Accepted 16 June 2017
Published 19 July 2017
Citation: R. Geyer, J. R. Jambeck, K. L. Law, Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made.
Sci. Adv. 3, e1700782 (2017).
Geyer, Jambeck, Law Sci. Adv. 2017; 3: e1700782 19 July 2017 5of5
on July 20, 2017 from
Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made
Roland Geyer, Jenna R. Jambeck and Kara Lavender Law
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1700782
(7), e1700782.3Sci Adv
This article cites 17 articles, 2 of which you can access for free
Terms of ServiceUse of this article is subject to the
registered trademark of AAAS. is aScience Advances Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. The title
York Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20005. 2017 © The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American
(ISSN 2375-2548) is published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1200 NewScience Advances
on July 20, 2017 from

Supplementary resource (1)

... Another treatment process is incineration in which plastic waste is burned at high temperatures and the released heat energy is harnessed and used for generating electricity or providing heat to industrial processes [16]. Around 24% of global plastic waste is managed via incineration [17]. Recently, there has been growing interest in chemical recycling methods to manage plastic waste [18]. ...
... Common processes include hydrolysis and pyrolysis, which break down plastic waste into valuable building blocks that can be used to produce fuels and plastics [19]. Despite all these traditional and advanced technologies and processes, an overwhelming majority of plastic waste is currently being landfilled or ending up unmanaged in the environment globally [17]. ...
Full-text available
Given the scale of plastic generation, its persistent presence in the environment, and the urgent need to transition to a net-zero emissions paradigm, managing plastic waste has gained increasing attention globally. Developing an effective strategy for plastic waste management requires a comprehensive assessment of the potential benefits offered by different solutions, particularly with respect to their environmental impact. This study employs the life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology to evaluate the environmental impact of two alternative scenarios to the As-Is scenario for managing plastic waste in the province of British Columbia in Canada. The LCA results suggest that the Zero Plastic Waste scenario, which heavily relies on chemical recycling, may not inherently result in a reduced environmental footprint across all impact categories. This is notable when the focus is solely on end-of-life treatment processes, without considering the produced products and energy. The Intermediate scenario reduces the amount of plastic waste sent to landfills by directing more end-of-life plastic to mechanical recycling facilities. This scenario provides immediate benefits for resource conservation, with a minimal increase in the environmental burden resulting from treatment processes. Nonetheless, achieving a net-zero transition requires combining traditional and emerging recycling technologies. The current study could offer some guidance to policymakers on strategies for fostering more sustainable management of plastic waste.
... In this study, out of 38 isolates, 23 showed the ability to grow on anionic aliphatic polyester-polyurethane dispersion (IMP DLN-SD) while 16 grew on anionic polycarbonate polyurethane dispersion (IMP DL) as a sole carbon source ( Figure 1B). This potential discovery holds promise for addressing polyurethane (PU)-related plastic waste, which constitutes 9% of global plastic production, according to Geyer et al. [48]. A noteworthy proportion of isolates from this source demonstrated the capability to utilize PET and PET-related substrates (TPA and BHET). ...
Full-text available
The exposure of microorganisms to conventional plastics is a relatively recent occurrence, affording limited time for evolutionary adaptation. As part of the EU-funded project BioICEP, this study delves into the plastic degradation potential of microorganisms isolated from sites with prolonged plastic pollution, such as plastic-polluted forests, biopolymer-contaminated soil, oil-contaminated soil, municipal landfill, but also a distinctive soil sample with plastic pieces buried three decades ago. Additionally, samples from Arthropoda species were investigated. In total, 150 strains were isolated and screened for the ability to use plastic-related substrates (Impranil dispersions, polyethylene terephthalate, terephthalic acid, and bis(2-hydroxyethyl) terephthalate). Twenty isolates selected based on their ability to grow on various substrates were identified as Streptomyces, Bacillus, Enterococcus, and Pseudomonas spp. Morphological features were recorded, and the 16S rRNA sequence was employed to construct a phylogenetic tree. Subsequent assessments unveiled that 5 out of the 20 strains displayed the capability to produce polyhydroxyalkanoates, utilizing pre-treated post-consumer PET samples. With Priestia sp. DG69 and Neobacillus sp. DG40 emerging as the most successful producers (4.14% and 3.34% of PHA, respectively), these strains are poised for further utilization in upcycling purposes, laying the foundation for the development of sustainable strategies for plastic waste management.
... Aunque el descubrimiento del plástico ocurrió a principios de 1900, fue en 1950 cuando su industrialización/producción y consumo se volvió masivo, lográndose un crecimiento exponencial que ha llegado alcanzar cifras de producción que superan las 360 millones de toneladas, siendo Asia el continente que produce más plástico (Plastics Europe, 2016;Geyer et al. 2017). Esto aunado a un modelo económico lineal, la falta de políticas adecuadas de gestión de residuos y de una conciencia ambiental colectiva han contribuido a una acumulación de plástico peligrosa y descontrolada en el ambiente, llegando a estimarse la presencia de que 5,25 billones de partículas de plástico que contaminan la superficie del mar a escala mundial (Bergmann et al., 2015). ...
Full-text available
El plástico que es el responsable de 80-85% de la basura en los océanos (Auta et al., 2017) proviene principalmente de fuentes terrestres, tales como las zonas costeras con actividad turística (UNEP, 2016). Con la finalidad de analizar la presencia de basura plástica y microplásticos asociados a sedimentos costeros en Lechería estado Anzoátegui (Venezuela), fue seleccionada playa Lido. La jornada ciudadana fue llevada a cabo con 20 voluntarios de la Fundación La Tortuga y Escuela Gastronómica Portobello. Se consideraron cuatro sectores de la playa. En cada sector se midieron tres transectos de 100 metros y se ubicaron 5 puntos para la recolección de sedimentos. Adicionalmente, en el área de muestreo se recolectó la basura plástica. Los sedimentos fueron tamizados y tratados con solución de NaCl para la separación de los plásticos. La basura plástica fue clasificada según su uso y, los plásticos obtenidos de los sedimentos según tamaño, forma y color. En total, fueron recuperados 668 ítems de basura plástica principalmente asociados a actividades turísticas. De los sedimentos se extrajeron 1559 plásticos, principalmente del transecto 2, con la siguiente tendencia en cuanto al tamaño: mesoplásticos > macroplásticos > microplásticos. Las formas de las partículas plásticas más frecuentes fueron foam, fragmentos y fibras y, los colores, blanco y azul, evidenciándose la acumulación importante de partículas plásticas en los sedimentos. Esto resalta la necesidad de mejorar la gestión de los residuos plásticos e incrementar la participación de los diferentes actores para promover la conservación de los espacios marino-costeros de la región.
In order to examine the distribution and accumulation patterns of microplastics (MPs) in conjunction with effective microorganisms (EMs), as well as their collective impact on oxidative stress, inflammatory damage, and immune regulation in juvenile Micropterus salmoides (M. salmoides), a series of exposure (96 h) and depuration (D 96 h) experiments with MPs and EMs were conducted. The results showed that the highest abundance of MPs appeared in the biological samples in the EMs with MPs group (EP group) at 96 h. The highest abundance of MPs in the sediment occurred in the MPs group (P group) at 96 h with 507 items/mL and in the water samples at 48 h in the P group with 141.75 items/mL. The addition of EMs increased the content of MPs in the intestine of M. salmoides and reduced the MPs content in the water and sediment. The expression of Nrf2 and SOD in the intestinal in the EP group compared with the control group (C group) showed significant differences at 48 h. After D 96 h, the expression of SOD and GPX in the MPs + EMs (P-E) (EP group) was significantly higher than the C group. IL-8 and TNF-α in the intestine and gill in the P group were significantly higher than the C group at 96 h, and it began to show a decreasing trend after D 96 h. These results revealed that the addition of EMs increased the enrichment of MPs in M. salmoides, while it promoted the recovery of M. salmoides from adverse effects during the depuration phase. These findings can help us understand the responses of MPs with microorganisms in aquaculture.
Full-text available
Recycling materials from end-of-life products has the potential to create environmental benefit by displacing more harmful primary material production. However, displacement is governed by market forces and is not guaranteed; if full displacement does not occur, the environmental benefits of recycling are reduced or eliminated. Therefore, quantifying the true “displacement rate” caused by recycling is essential to accurately assess environmental benefits and make optimal environmental management decisions. Our 2016 article proposed a market-based methodology to estimate actual displacement rates following an increase in recycling or reuse. The current article demonstrates the operation, utility, and challenges of that methodology in the context of the U.S. aluminum industry. Sensitivity analyses reveal that displacement estimates are sensitive to uncertainty in price elasticities. Results suggest that 100% displacement is unlikely immediately following a sustained supply-driven increase in aluminum recycling and even less likely in the long term. However, zero and even negative displacement are possible. A variant of the model revealed that demand-driven increases in recycling are less likely than supply-driven changes to result in full displacement. However, model limitations exist and challenges arose in the estimation process, the effects of which are discussed. We suggest implications for environmental assessment, present lessons learned from applying the estimation methodology, and highlight the need for further research in the market dynamics of recycling.
Full-text available
The recycling of material resources lies at the heart of the industrial ecology (IE) metaphor. The very notion of the industrial ecosystem is motivated by the idea that we should learn from natural ecosystems how to " close the loop. " Recycling is not just central to IE, it is part of everyday life. Unfortunately, how the IE community and the public at large think about recycling includes several misconceptions that have the potential to misguide environmental assessments, policies, and actions that deal with recycling and thus undermine its environmental potential. One misconception stems from na¨ıve assumptions regarding recycled material displacing primary production. Two others assert the environmental advantages of recycling material multiple times, or at least in a closed loop. A final misconception is the assumption that the distinction between closed and open recycling loops is generally useful. This article explains why these misconceptions are flawed, discusses the implications, and presents an alternative set of principles to better harness the potential environmental benefits of closing material loops.
Full-text available
Good decision-making about how we manage the waste we create is one of the most important contributions humanity can make to reducing its impact on the natural world. The Global Waste Management Outlook (GWMO) is being released at a critical moment, one where the world is considering a new regime to keep global warming to below 2 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures, and, at the same time, discussing what the future development agenda will look like and how it will be funded. The GWMO is the first comprehensive, impartial and in-depth assessment of global waste management. It reflects the collective body of recent scientific knowledge, drawing on the work of leading experts and the vast body of research undertaken within and beyond the United Nations system. The six chapters inform the reader about trends, provide an analysis on governance and financial mechanisms, and offer policy advice on the way forward. The main document targeting professionals is accompanied by two summary documents, one for decision makers and the other for the public more broadly. This GWMO offers a profound analysis of the enormous potential better waste management provides to assist in meeting the sustainability challenges ahead.
Full-text available
The informal sector is active in the collection, processing and trading of recyclable materials in urban China. Formal waste management organisations have established pilot schemes for source separation of recyclables, but this strategy is still in its infancy. The amounts of recyclables informally picked out of the municipal solid waste stream are unknown as informal waste workers do not record their activities. This article estimates the size and significance of the current informal recycling system with a focus on the collection of recyclables. A majority of the reviewed literature detects that official data is displaying mainly 'municipal solid waste collected and transported', whereas less information is available on 'real' waste generation rates at the source. Based on a literature review the variables, the 'number of informal waste workers involved in collection activities', the 'amounts collected daily per informal collector' and the 'number of working days' are used to estimate yearly recyclable amounts that are informally diverted from municipal solid waste. The results show an interval of approximately 0.56%-0.93% of the urban population or 3.3-5.6 million people involved in informal waste collection and recycling activities in urban China. This is the equivalent to estimated informal recycling rates of approximately 17-38w/w% of the municipal solid waste generated. Despite some uncertainties in these assessments, it can be concluded that a significant share of recyclables is collected and processed by informal waste workers.
Full-text available
Background: While the use of plastic materials has generated huge societal benefits, the ‘plastic age’ comes with downsides: One issue of emerging concern is the accumulation of plastics in the aquatic environment. Here, so-called microplastics (MP), fragments smaller than 5 mm, are of special concern because they can be ingested throughout the food web more readily than larger particles. Focusing on freshwater MP, we briefly review the state of the science to identify gaps of knowledge and deduce research needs. State of the science: Environmental scientists started investigating marine (micro)plastics in the early 2000s. Today, a wealth of studies demonstrates that MP have ubiquitously permeated the marine ecosystem, including the polar regions and the deep sea. MP ingestion has been documented for an increasing number of marine species. However, to date, only few studies investigate their biological effects. The majority of marine plastics are considered to originate from land-based sources, including surface waters. Although they may be important transport pathways of MP, data from freshwater ecosystems is scarce. So far, only few studies provide evidence for the presence of MP in rivers and lakes. Data on MP uptake by freshwater invertebrates and fish is very limited. Knowledge gaps: While the research on marine MP is more advanced, there are immense gaps of knowledge regarding freshwater MP. Data on their abundance is fragmentary for large and absent for small surface waters.Likewise, relevant sources and the environmental fate remain to be investigated. Data on the biological effects of MP in freshwater species is completely lacking. The accumulation of other freshwater contaminants on MP is of special interest because ingestion might increase the chemical exposure. Again, data is unavailable on this important issue. Conclusions: MP represent freshwater contaminants of emerging concern. However, to assess the environmental risk associated with MP, comprehensive data on their abundance, fate, sources, and biological effects in freshwater ecosystems are needed. Establishing such data critically depends on a collaborative effort by environmental scientists from diverse disciplines (chemistry, hydrology, ecotoxicology, etc.) and, unsurprisingly, on the allocation of sufficient public funding.
Survey's the issues typically raised in discussions of sustainability and plastics Discusses current issues not covered in detail previously such as ocean litter, migration of additives into food products and the recovery of plastics Covers post-consumer fate of plastics on land and in the oceans, highlighting the environmental impacts of disposal methods Details toxicity of plastics, particularly as it applies to human health Presents a clear analysis of the key plastic-related issues including numerous citations of the research base that supports and contradicts the popularly held notions.
Studies about microplastics in various environments highlighted the ubiquity of anthropogenic fibers. As a follow-up of a recent study that emphasized the presence of man-made fibers in atmospheric fallout, this study is the first one to investigate fibers in indoor and outdoor air. Three different indoor sites were considered: two private apartments and one office. In parallel, the outdoor air was sampled in one site. The deposition rate of the fibers and their concentration in settled dust collected from vacuum cleaner bags were also estimated. Overall, indoor concentrations ranged between 1.0 and 60.0 fibers/m³. Outdoor concentrations are significantly lower as they range between 0.3 and 1.5 fibers/m³. The deposition rate of the fibers in indoor environments is between 1586 and 11,130 fibers/day/m² leading to an accumulation of fibers in settled dust (190–670 fibers/mg). Regarding fiber type, 67% of the analyzed fibers in indoor environments are made of natural material, primarily cellulosic, while the remaining 33% fibers contain petrochemicals with polypropylene being predominant. Such fibers are observed in marine and continental studies dealing with microplastics. The observed fibers are supposedly too large to be inhaled but the exposure may occur through dust ingestion, particularly for young children.
The rise of plastics since the mid-20th century, both as a material element of modern life and as a growing environmental pollutant, has been widely described. Their distribution in both the terrestrial and marine realms suggests that they are a key geological indicator of the Anthropocene, as a distinctive stratal component. Most immediately evident in terrestrial deposits, they are clearly becoming widespread in marine sedimentary deposits in both shallow- and deep-water settings. They are abundant and widespread as macroscopic fragments and virtually ubiquitous as microplastic particles; these are dispersed by both physical and biological processes, not least via the food chain and the ‘faecal express’ route from surface to sea floor. Plastics are already widely dispersed in sedimentary deposits, and their amount seems likely to grow several-fold over the next few decades. They will continue to be input into the sedimentary cycle over coming millennia as temporary stores – landfill sites – are eroded. Plastics already enable fine time resolution within Anthropocene deposits via the development of their different types and via the artefacts (‘technofossils’) they are moulded into, and many of these may have long-term preservation potential when buried in strata.
Anthropogenic debris contaminates marine habitats globally, leading to several perceived ecological impacts. Here, we critically and systematically review the literature regarding impacts of debris from several scientific fields to understand the weight of evidence regarding the ecological impacts of marine debris. We quantified perceived and demonstrated impacts across several levels of biological organization that make up the ecosystem and found 366 perceived threats of debris across all levels. Two hundred and ninety-six of these perceived threats were tested, 83% of which were demonstrated. The majority (82%) of demonstrated impacts were due to plastic, relative to other materials (e.g., metals, glass) and largely (89%) at suborganismal levels (e.g., molecular, cellular, tissue). The remaining impacts, demonstrated at higher levels of organization (i.e., death to individual organisms, changes in assemblages), were largely due to plastic marine debris (>1 mm; e.g., rope, straws, and fragments). Thus, we show evidence of ecological impacts from marine debris, but conclude that the quantity and quality of research requires improvement to allow the risk of ecological impacts of marine debris to be determined with precision. Still, our systematic review suggests that sufficient evidence exists for decision makers to begin to mitigate problematic plastic debris now, to avoid risk of irreversible harm.
Plastic debris in the marine environment is widely documented, but the quantity of plastic entering the ocean from waste generated on land is unknown. By linking worldwide data on solid waste, population density, and economic status, we estimated the mass of land-based plastic waste entering the ocean. We calculate that 275 million metric tons (MT) of plastic waste was generated in 192 coastal countries in 2010, with 4.8 to 12.7 million MT entering the ocean. Population size and the quality of waste management systems largely determine which countries contribute the greatest mass of uncaptured waste available to become plastic marine debris. Without waste management infrastructure improvements, the cumulative quantity of plastic waste available to enter the ocean from land is predicted to increase by an order of magnitude by 2025. Copyright © 2015, American Association for the Advancement of Science.