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Plastic Waste Worldwide - Statistics & Facts

The plastics industry began in the early 1900s when the first synthetic plastic was created by Leo Hendrik Baekeland in the U.S. Since the industry began, annual global plastic production has exploded from some 1.5 million metric tons in 1950 to 359 billion metric tons in 2018. The cumulative production of plastic has already surpassed eight billion metric tons worldwide, with further increases expected in the coming decades.

The increase in plastic production has become a serious problem worldwide. Although recycling has become more widely available in recent years, much of the plastic materials produced over the last 70 years has ended up in landfills, and often ends up in water supplies, causing devastating environmental pollution.

One of the most infamous examples of plastic pollution is the Great Pacific garbage patch. This is an area in the Pacific Ocean with a concentration of plastic waste stretching more than a million square kilometers. It can take hundreds of years for plastic to breakdown in water and often the subsequent fragments, macro- and micro-plastics, can enter the environment and eventually be ingested into the bodies of living organisms, including humans.

Prior to 2018, China was the leading destination for plastic waste exports. However, at the beginning of that year, China decided it would no longer take plastic waste and other recyclables from foreign countries. This put pressure on major exporting countries such as the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom to find new waste destinations. With China no longer an option, other nations, especially in South East Asia, began to increase plastic waste imports. By the end of 2018, Malaysia was the leading destination for waste exports.

Interesting statistics

In the following 7 chapters, you will quickly find the 39 most important statistics relating to "Global plastic waste".

Global plastic waste

Dossier on the topic

All important statistics are prepared by our experts – available for direct download as PPT & PDF!

Important key figures

The most important key figures provide you with a compact summary of the topic of "Global plastic waste" and take you straight to the corresponding statistics.


Waste management






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