What Happens To The World's Plastic Waste?

In her article "Mapping the World's Plastic Waste Flows" Iman Gosh perfectly portrays what happens to all the plastic waste we always assume is being recycled.

Since 1950 humans have created approximately 6,300,000,000 metric tons of plastic waste. To date only 9% of that plastic is being recycled. Almost 80% ends up in landfills or the natural environment.

What consumers think is being recycled is often shipped to other parts of the world.

Plastic Waste Exported

Source: The Straits Times

The US exported the equivalent of 68,000 shipping containers only in 2018.

Top exporters and importers of plastic waste

Source: Visual Capitalist

After importing the worlds waste for decades, China enforced the "National Sword" policy to ban foreign recyclables, including plastic waste - leaving the world scrambling to find an outlet.

What's Next?

As more countries crack down on plastic imports what is the developed world doing to curb their waste?

- Reduce Single Use Plastics: The European Union is placing bans on disposable plastics and polystyrenes, while the state of California plans to phase out single use plastics by 2030.

- Improve domestic recycling: The largest recycling company in the US, Waste Management, spent US$110 Million towards plastic recycling infrastructure.


Read the full story here: https://www.visualcapitalist.com/

Opening Photo by Getty Images