Plastics and plastic packaging have become increasingly dominant in the consumer marketplace since their commercial development in the 1930s and are now used in every aspect of modern living. It is fair to say that when we go shopping these days, whether we like it or not, we’re pre-eminently buying plastic.
Over the last 50 years, plastics production has increased from 15 millions tons in 1964 to 311 million tons in 2014. Due to its increasing usage in various industries, plastics production is expected to double again over the next 20 years and almost quadruple by 2050.
This is bad news for the planet as currently, 72% of all plastic that is produced is not recycled. 40% of non-recycled plastic goes straight into landfill, but a worrying 32% leaks out of the collection system meaning it is illegally dumped or mismanaged, and it is this plastic – estimated at approximately 8 million tons – that ‘leaks’ out into the oceans every year.
This leakage of plastic waste has led to the devastating fact that there is now over 150 million tons of plastic waste in the ocean. In fact, there is a high risk that without significant intervention, there may be – weight for weight – more plastic than fish in the ocean, by 2050 (Ocean Conservancy 2015).