Numbers: Plastics, From Manufacturing to Recycling to Long Death in a Landfill

Wednesday, October 21, 2009
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63  Pounds of plastic packaging, per person, that end up in landfills in the United States every year. Plastic accounts for 16 percent of all municipal solid waste in this country and 50 to 80 percent of the waste littering beaches, oceans, and seabeds.

6.8  Percentage of total plastics recovered for recycling in the United States in 2007, according to the EPA (PDF). About 37 percent of plastic soda bottles and 28 percent of plastic milk and water jugs get recycled. Making products with recycled materials takes 50 percent less energy than starting from scratch.

300  Million Projected global plastic production in 2010, in metric tons, according to a report published by the Royal Society (U.K.) in July. Fifty percent of all plastic is made for disposable applications such as packaging; about a quarter goes into long-term infrastructure items such as pipes. More than 40 million tons become textile fibers like nylon and polyester.

93  Percentage of individuals 6 years and older whose urine contained detectable bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used in the manufacture of some plastics, in a CDC study published in 2007. Four million tons of BPA are produced each year. A National Toxicology Program report released last fall said there was “some concern” that exposure to BPA could lead to developmental changes in infants and children.

450  Estimated time, in years, for a plastic bottle to degrade completely in a marine environment. On the upside, packaging beverages in plastic uses an estimated 52 percent less energy than packaging them in glass or metal.

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