According to a report on the website of the monthly magazine Discovery on March 25th, Americans use a lot of plastic per capita, and they use much more plastic than people in other countries. And this number has surged in recent decades.
Back in 1980, Americans used about 60 pounds of plastic per person per year. By 2018, the figure had risen to 218 pounds. According to a paper published in 2020, it was estimated that 46 million tons of plastic waste were generated in the United States in 2016.
During the partial closure of the US government in December 2018, garbage cans filled with plastic garbage outside the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington. (Associated Press)
"We estimate that Americans produce more plastic waste than any other country on Earth, both in terms of total and per capita," said Carla Lavender Law, a research professor at the Marine Education Association and the first author of the paper
Experts such as Lisa Edler, director of research and innovation at the Fifth Ring Research Institute, said it was disturbing that the recorded figures might not reflect the true level of total plastic waste at all.
This is because there are many categories of hidden waste that have not been estimated.
She said, "We use and discard a lot of disposable packaging, such as tableware. This is known to many of us. However, textiles are actually the second largest source of waste plastic after disposable packaging."
For example, washing clothes can release thousands of plastic particles, depending on the type of material.
Edler said the plastic problem will only become increasingly serious.
Currently, the world produces over 400 million tons of plastic annually. An OECD forecast shows that this number may triple by 2060.
In addition to calculating the amount of plastic waste produced per person (which, of course, depends on everyone and different household habits), researchers are also analyzing the impact of plastic waste on humans and the environment.
For example, a study published earlier this year showed that plastic pollution can cause seabirds to develop a specific disease known as "plasticism.".
Recently, Edler's organization released a report detailing the level of plastic pollution in the world's oceans. Edler's research team estimates that 170 trillion plastic particles are floating in waters from the Arctic to Antarctica and are ubiquitous.
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