How much plastic has been manufactured ever since we started producing larger amounts of plastic? Researchers have tried to answer that question with a new study.

It was in the 1950s we humans started producing large amounts of plastic. Since then, 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced in the world according to a new study.

If you were to cover all of Argentina with this plastic – Argentina is a big country mind you – the plastic would cover the whole country with at least 10 centimeters of trash.

The figure has been calculated using data from industry organizations and national statistics from different countries. The data makes it easier to understand that there is really a lot of plastic out there and highlights the environmental aspects of this non-biodegradable material.

Of the 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics in total, 6.3 billion tons have already become waste. Of that waste total, only 9 percent was recycled, 12 percent was incinerated and 79 percent accumulated in landfills or the natural environment.

Global production of plastics increased from 2 million metric tons in 1950 to over 400 million metric tons in 2015, according to the study. If current trends continue, roughly 12 billion metric tons of plastic waste will be in landfills or the natural environment by 2050.

Since the study has attempted to cover statistics for the whole world, it will be a good starting point for studying this topic closer in future research.


Roland Geyer et al. Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made. Science Advances July 19, 2017. DOI: 10.1126 / sciadv.1700782

University of Georgia: Scientists calculate total amount of plastics ever produced July 19, 2017