Production and use


  • Each year 260 million tons of new plastic is made worldwide. In 1950 this was only five million tons of plastic. The production of plastic increases by 8% a year.
  • Over the past ten years more plastic has been produced then in the entire 20th
  • About half of all plastic produced is for single use and immediately discarded.
  • Clothes made of plastic (fleece, nylon, acrylic, polyester) release miniscule plastic fibres during washing. It has been found that in the washing of a single garment, in a single wash, over 1900 fibres had been released. These fibres are so small they bypass the wastewater treatment plants.
  • Worldwide around 1 quintillion plastic bags are used per year. That is more than 1 million bags a minute. A plastic bag has an approximate ‘lifespan’ of 15 minutes.
  • The American NGO 5Gyres has counted microplastics in a single cosmetic product (Neutrogena’s Deep Clean) and found a total of 360.000 microbeads of plastic. These flush down the shower drain.
  • Some personal care products contain 10% of microplastics.
  • In the United States alone 60 million plastic bottles are discarded every day.
  • 8% of the world oil production is used to produce plastic, of which 4% to generate the energy for production.
  • Large quantities of fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal) are needed to produce plastic.
  • The production as well as the recycling of plastic demands transport and energy and that also brings waste and emissions.
  • Potentially harmful chemicals – such as stabilisers, softening and colouring agents – are added in the production process for the desired properties. The risk that these chemicals could pose to the environment has been insufficiently tested. We do not know enough about the cumulative effect of the exposure to small doses over time and the harm to health they could cause is uncertain.
  • The waste processing of synthetic products has considerable consequences for the environment. Most plastics are not biodegradable. They will stay in landfills until they are cleaned up. The amount of land required for landfills is of increasing concern everywhere in the world. In Europe too, landfills are still in use and many former landfills not yet decontaminated.
  • Only a small amount of plastic is recycled. New plastic is mostly made from fossil fuels, while recycled plastic is used in products of less quality.
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