WHAT IF PLASTIC WAS NEVER INVENTED?

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There is plastic in your tea bags, it makes your socks stretchy, and it stops the fat in your packet of crisps going rancid. It’s used in life-saving medical technology, like syringes, catheters, and incubators. It forms the circuit boards inside your phone, the insulation that wraps the wires in your house, and it makes planes light enough to fly. Without it, the modern world as we know it would not exist. Plastic is one of the most versatile materials ever invented, but it’s become so cheap we don’t think twice about throwing it away. According to research from the University of California, we have made over 8 billion tons of plastic, and we have thrown three-quarters of it away. We sent 79 percent to landfill, burnt 12 percent and recycled nine percent, all since the 1950s. Unlike with organic waste, most bacteria simply won’t touch plastic, so it doesn’t matter how long we leave it, it will never biodegrade.

We make 150 million tons of single-use plastic a year. We buy 1 million disposable plastic bottles a minute.

We use plastic bags for an average of just 15 minutes before throwing them away.

It takes 450 years for a plastic bottle to break down.

Each year 8 million tons of plastic ends up in our oceans.

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