Managing Marine Plastic Debris in Asia and the Pacific

Plastics were first developed in 1907 with the discovery of Bakelite, a synthetic polymer that could be easily massproduced. This invention led to countless innovations and new products as plastics became an essential material of the global economy. In 1989 the world produced about 100 million tonnes (Mt) of plastic every year. By 2015 that number had grown exponentially to 322 Mt (McIlgorm et al., 2020). Since 1907 over 8.3 billion tonnes of virgin plastics have been manufactured. But, as supply and demand continues to grow, global recycling capacity has been unable to keep up. As a result, only 9% of all plastic ever made has been recycled – a small quantity remains in use in society, while the vast majority sits in landfills, has been openly incinerated or now pollutes the land, forests and oceans of our natural environment.

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