Reports & Studies

Plastic Facts and Figures

The most important facts and figures about plastics.

History of Plastic

Date of invention, invention, inventor

  • 1839 – Rubber, Charles Goodyear
  • 1869 – Celluloïd, John Wesley Hyatt
  • 1884 – Artificial Silk, Hilaire Bernigaud de Grange
  • 1892 – Rayon/viscose, Charles Cross, Edward Bevan, Clayton Beadle
  • 1907 – Bakelite, Leo Baekeland
  • 1908 – Cellophane, Jacques E. Brandenberger
  • 1910 – Synthetic Rubber, Fritz Hofmann
  • 1912 – PVC, Fritz Klatte
  • 1931 – Polystyrene, IG Farben
  • 1935 – HDPE, Imperial Chemical industries
  • 1935 – Melamine, BASF
  • 1937 – Polyurethane, Otto Bayer
  • 1938 – Teflon, Roy J. Plunkett, Rack Rebok
  • 1938 – Nylon, Paul Schlack
  • 1946 – Acrylonitrilebutadienestyrene (ABS), US Rubber Company
  • 1949 – Expanded Polystyrene (EPS), Fritz Stastny
  • 1952 – LDPE, Karl Ziegler
  • 1953 – Polycarbonate (PC), Hermann Schnell
  • 1954 – Polyacrylonitrile (PAN), Bayer
  • 1954 – Polypropylène (PP), Guilio Natta

Plastic Production

  • 9.2 billion tons have been produced between 1950 and 2017.
  • More than half of all produced plastics was produced after the year 2.000
  • 1130 billion plastic packaging units were produced in the year 2018 alone.
  • Plastic Applications:
    • Packaging – 36 %
    • Building and Public Works – 16 %
    • Textiles – 14 %
    • Other sectors – 12 %
    • Consumption goods – 10%
    • Transport – 7%
    • Electric and electronics – 4%
    • Industry less than 1%
  • Types of plastics:
    • Other (n°7) – 26%
    • Polypropylene – 18%
    • LDPE low density polyethylene – 17%
    • HDPE high density poly ethylene – 14%
    • PVC – 10%
    • PET – 9%
    • PS polystyrene – 6%

Food Packaging

In 2019, large companies made their data regarding plastic production public for the first time. 4 companies represent the biggest chunk of plastic production.

  • Unilever produces 610.000 tons of plastic waste per year;
  • Danone produces 750.000 tons of plastic waste per year;
  • Nestlé produces 1.700.000 tons of plastic waste per year;
  • Coca-Cola produces 3.000.000 tons of plastic waste per year. 88 billions single-use bottles per year. Pile them up, you get 31 times the distance between earth and the moon. They produce 167.000 bottles per minute.

Plastic Waste

  • 450 million tons of plastics produced every year.
  • Average plastic waste per inhabitant in Europe: 31 kg in 2015, 24 kg in 2016.
  • 10 million tons of plastic waste goes into the oceans every year; the equivalent of 1 truck every minute.
  • There will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.
  • 150 million tons of plastic waste end up in the soil or internal waters per year.
  • In 2018, China stopped importing plastic waste. The biggest exporter were US, Japan, Germany and UK.

Single Use Plastic

  • Single-use plastic production per region
    • Asia and Pacific – 38%
    • North America – 26%
    • Middle-East – 17%
    • Europe – 16%
    • Central and South America – 4%
    • Ex-USSR – 3%
    • Africa – 1%

Microplastics in Bottled Water

The amount of micro plastics found in bottles of water per brand.

  • Nestlé Pure Life – 10390 micro plastics particles per litre
  • Bisleri – 5230 micro plastics particles per litre
  • Gerolsteiner – 5160 micro plastics particles per litre
  • Danone Aqua – 4173 micro plastics particles per litre
  • Pepsico Epura – 2267 micro plastics particles per litre
  • Pepsico Aquafina – 1295 micro plastics particles per litre
  • Minalba – 863 micro plastics particles per litre
  • Wahaha – 731 micro plastics particles per litre
  • Coca-Cola Dasani – 335 micro plastics particles per litre
  • Danone Evian 256 micro plastics particles per litre
  • Nestle San pellegrino  – 74 micro plastics particles per litre

Micro Plastics in Sewage Waters

Amount of micro plastics spread in the soil through sewage sludge in 2016

  • France – 11653 tons
  • UK – 11455 tons
  • Germany – 9696 tons
  • Spain – 8394 tons
  • Italy – 5528 tons
  • Portugal – 1579 tons
  • Finland – 1234 tons
  • Sweden – 665 tons
  • Estonia – 197 tons

Textiles

The production of polyesters (plastic for textiles)

  • Produces 706 millions tons of CO2 per year,
  • the equivalent of 1.6 billion oil barrels,
  • the equivalent of oil consumption of the United States for 2 years.
  • the equivalent of CO2 emissions produced by 149 million cars annually
  • the equivalent of CO2 absorbed by 234 million hectares of forests

Plastic Garbage Patch

Estimation of the plastic waste in the oceans. The number is expressed in “number of plastic articles”

What is Circular Packaging? Watch Now!

  • North Pacific – 1990 billions
  • Indian Ocean – 1300 billions
  • North Atlantic – 930 billions
  • South Pacific – 491 billions
  • Atlantic South – 297 billions
  • Mediterranean – 247 billions

The North Pacific Garbage patch is around 1.6 millions km2 ; four times the size of Germany.

Bioplastics (PLA ) Bags

To produce 1 ton PLA, you need:

  • 2.39 tons of corn
  • 0.37 ha of soil
  • 2921 m3 of water

Energy used during production

  • 1 ton of PLA needs 40 MJ/kg
  • 1 ton of PE needs 80 MJ/kg

Less than 40 % of biobased plastics are compostable.

  • PLA plastic bags do not compost in the sea;
  • PLA plastic bags do not compost in the soil;
  • PLA plastic bags do not compost at home – It takes too long and the residue cannot be used as compost for the garden.
  • PLA plastic bags do not compost at industrial facilities – most composting facilities do not have the necessary equipment and most PLA will be incinerated.

Production and Use of Biobased Plastics (2018)

Production capacity of bio-based plastics

  • Asia – 55 %
  • Europe – 19%
  • North America – 16%
  • South America – 9%
  • Australia / oceania – 1%

Bio-based Plastics used per sector in thousands of tons

  • Rigid packaging – 699.5
  • Flexible Packaging – 518
  • Textiles – 239
  • Automotive and transport – 155
  • Consumption goods – 143.5
  • Agriculture and horticulture – 119.5
  • Coating and adhesives – 102.5
  • Building and pubic works – 76.5
  • Electricity and electronics – 34
  • Other – 21

Recycling

9200 millions tons of plastic produced between 1950 and 2017.

  • 5000 million tons thrown away
  • 2700 million tons in use
  • 900 million tons incinerated
  • 600 million tons recycled

Plastic Waste Export

UK exported 429.000 tons of plastic waste in 2018 to

  • Malaysia 102.000 tons
  • Turkey 80.000 tons
  • Indonesia 72.000 tons
  • Taiwan 50.000 tons
  • Netherlands 50.000 tons
  • Hong Kong 40.000 tons
  • Poland 36.000 tons

US exported 790.000 tons of plastic waste in 2018 to

  • Malaysia 200.000 tons
  • Canada 123.000 tons
  • India 122.000 tons
  • Hong Kong 115.000 tons
  • Thailand 101.000 tons
  • Vietnam 74.000 tons
  • Taiwan 50.000 tons

 

 

This study was done by the “Heinrich Böll Stiftung”

Heinrich Böll, born in Cologne on December 21, 1917, died on July 16, 1985 in Kreuzau-Langenbroich, is a German writer. He is considered one of the greatest German authors of the post-war period.

He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1972. The Stockholm Academy distinguished him for a poetry which, through the synthesis of his clear-sighted description of the currents of his time and the creative and attentive power, contributed to the revival of German literature. His novels, short stories, essays and public statements have had an important impact on the literary world and on society in the post-war Federal Republic of Germany.

Heinrich Böll died in 1985. Since then, the environment of this Nobel Prize winner has fundamentally changed. However , the quality of his work transcends his time and gives the author importance for contemporary society. His aspiration to act freely and to develop forms of personal commitment are at the center of his works and his essays, going beyond the conventions of thought .

Böll considered freedom , above all , as freedom of mind and thought.

 

REFS

Heinrich Böll

REPORT in FRENCH – Atlas du Plastique French

 

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