Science

Chart: How much plastic the world has produced since 1950

Adapted from Geyer et al., 2017, "Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made," Science Advances; Chart: Axios Visuals

Plastics are increasingly hardwired into the global economy, from shipping to building to computing.

Key stat: In 65 years, we've gone from producing very little plastic to more than 400 million metric tons in 2015.

Go deeper: The global plastic problem is even bigger than you think

Special report: Our plastic planet

Image of many assorted, small plastic objects like doll heads, planes, eating utensils, arranged into a montage.
Assembled plastic objects found on the UK coast, 1994-2019. Photo: Steve McPherson

We have sipped, packaged and played our way into a global plastics crisis.

Why it matters: Activist consumer groups are pushing for less use, and to some extent, less production, while industry aims for increased recycling.