An estimated 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic have been produced worldwide since large-scale use began in the 1950s. That’s equal to the weight of 1 billion elephants, or 25,000 times the weight of the Empire State Building.
Of that amount, only 9 percent has been recycled. Nearly 80 percent of it has accumulated in landfills and in the natural environment. It has polluted uninhabited islands, clogged waterways and choked all kinds of marine life.
And it’s only getting worse. By 2050, the planet will contain more than 12 billion metric tons of plastics. There will be more plastic in the oceans than fish. As this plastic breaks down over decades, microscopic particles contaminate the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink.