Plastic Waste: According To A New UN Report, About 5 Trillion Plastic Bags Are Used Annually


Plastic waste becomes a discouraging challenge, according to a UN report released today. Accordingly, every year, about 5 trillion plastic bags are consumed and, like most plastic, a tiny proportion is recycled. In the document, unveiled on the occasion of World Environment Day, the UN notes that if current consumption patterns and waste management practices continue, there will be about 12 billion tons of plastic waste on land and in waters by 2050.

“The scale of the challenge is daunting. Since the 1950s, plastic production has surpassed almost all other materials,” the UN document reads.

10 million plastic bags per minute

The figures are dizzying as it is estimated that about 5,000 billion plastic bags are used worldwide every year, meaning that almost 10 million plastic bags are used every minute.

“If they were tied together, they could surround the planet seven times every hour,” the report says. Only 9% of the 9 billion tons of plastic the world has produced have been recycled. Additionally, only 12% has been incinerated, adds the report.

On the other hand, the rest ended up in landfills, oceans, pipelines, where it will take thousands of years to completely decompose leading to the massive growth of the plastic waste.

Plastic waste represents a huge ecological issue

Meanwhile, the plastic that is not processed contaminates soil and water with microplastic particles. According to the UN, these small particles have even been found in commercial table salt.

Studies show, the report says, that 90% of bottled water and 83% of tap water contain plastic particles.

The UN welcomes an emerging awareness of the scale of the problem, noting that more than 60 countries have adopted policies to reduce pollution. But this is not enough, according to the UN, which advocates better plastic waste management, incentives to encourage consumers to change their consumption habits or even more research on alternative materials.

“We urgently need leadership and action from the government to deal with the rising tide of plastics,” the UN report says.


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