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A Brief History of Plastics

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Mare Plasticum - The Plastic Sea

Abstract

This book chapter provides a comprehensive account of global plastic production, use, and fate from 1950 to 2017 and thus covers all plastic humankind has ever made. It starts with a brief introduction of plastic’s origin and nomenclature, followed by a detailed global material flow analysis of the 68 years of plastic mass production, use, and end-of-life management. The analysis includes all major polymer resins and fibers, as well as all additives, and discusses production by polymer, use by consuming sector, and end-of-life management by waste management type. The historical analysis is followed by a discussion of the current global state of plastic production, use, and end-of-life management. The chapter closes with trend projections from 2017 to 2050, which show that even if recycling and incineration rates were to increase at historical rates, this would not be enough to stem the tide of plastic waste. This suggests that changes and improvements in waste management strategies need to be supplemented with serious source reduction efforts in order to make our use of plastic more sustainable.

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Correspondence to Roland Geyer .

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Geyer, R. (2020). A Brief History of Plastics. In: Streit-Bianchi, M., Cimadevila, M., Trettnak, W. (eds) Mare Plasticum - The Plastic Sea. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-38945-1_2

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