Environment

Following plastic through the economy

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  14 Sep 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6407, pp. 1084-1085
DOI: 10.1126/science.361.6407.1084-f

Reducing plastic pollution requires better knowledge of its entire life cycle.

PHOTO: MOODBOARD/GETTY IMAGES

Over the past 50 years, plastic production and pollution have surged. Efforts to better handle plastic waste require detailed knowledge of the life cycles of different plastic types. Kawecki et al. report a probabilistic study of the life cycles of seven polymers that together make up 80% of the plastics used by manufacturers in Europe. The authors provide a detailed picture of the production, manufacturing, consumption, waste collection, and recycling, including trade flows, for each polymer, with a particular focus on textiles. The results can be used to predict how much plastic is likely to be released into the environment at different stages of each plastic's life cycle, thus informing strategies for preventing plastic pollution.

Environ. Sci. Technol. 52, 9874 (2018).

Navigate This Article