Global data on plastic production and waste 1950-2017

Plastic has become ubiquitous in human society, with about 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic produced since 1950. Out of this amount, 6.4 billion metric tons have become waste which either sits in landfills or, even worse, the natural environment. Globally, humans have produced more plastic in the last 15 years than they have in the last 50 years. Due to the rise of oil and gas, packaging has become the largest plastic market as it is often cheaper to produce virgin plastics as a petroleum product rather than recycle plastic.

Plastic and the Environment

Plastic is largely tied to the oil industry as it is both cheap and easy to convert oil into plastics, creating single-use plastics or disposable plastics. Petroleum-based plastics are not biodegradable and often get thrown into landfills. It is estimated that plastic water bottles may take up to 450 years to degrade, however, plastics do not biodegrade into natural substances but rather will continuously breakdown into smaller and smaller particles. These particles, microplastics, have been found in the water and food supply as well as in animals and humans.

Key information of plastic production and waste globally between 1950 and 2017

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Release date

July 2017



Survey time period


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Statistics on "Global plastic waste"

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