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      Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made.

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          Plastics have outgrown most man-made materials and have long been under environmental scrutiny. However, robust global information, particularly about their end-of-life fate, is lacking. By identifying and synthesizing dispersed data on production, use, and end-of-life management of polymer resins, synthetic fibers, and additives, we present the first global analysis of all mass-produced plastics ever manufactured. We estimate that 8300 million metric tons (Mt) as of virgin plastics have been produced to date. As of 2015, approximately 6300 Mt of plastic waste had been generated, around 9% of which had been recycled, 12% was incinerated, and 79% was accumulated in landfills or the natural environment. If current production and waste management trends continue, roughly 12,000 Mt of plastic waste will be in landfills or in the natural environment by 2050.

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          Most cited references18

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          Microplastic in terrestrial ecosystems and the soil?

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            A first overview of textile fibers, including microplastics, in indoor and outdoor environments

            Studies about microplastics in various environments highlighted the ubiquity of anthropogenic fibers. As a follow-up of a recent study that emphasized the presence of man-made fibers in atmospheric fallout, this study is the first one to investigate fibers in indoor and outdoor air. Three different indoor sites were considered: two private apartments and one office. In parallel, the outdoor air was sampled in one site. The deposition rate of the fibers and their concentration in settled dust collected from vacuum cleaner bags were also estimated. Overall, indoor concentrations ranged between 1.0 and 60.0 fibers/m3. Outdoor concentrations are significantly lower as they range between 0.3 and 1.5 fibers/m3. The deposition rate of the fibers in indoor environments is between 1586 and 11,130 fibers/day/m2 leading to an accumulation of fibers in settled dust (190-670 fibers/mg). Regarding fiber type, 67% of the analyzed fibers in indoor environments are made of natural material, primarily cellulosic, while the remaining 33% fibers contain petrochemicals with polypropylene being predominant. Such fibers are observed in marine and continental studies dealing with microplastics. The observed fibers are supposedly too large to be inhaled but the exposure may occur through dust ingestion, particularly for young children.
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              Synthetic fibers as an indicator of land application of sludge.

              Synthetic fabric fibers have been proposed as indicators of past spreading of wastewater sludge. Synthetic fiber detectability was examined in sludges (dewatered, pelletized, composted, alkaline-stabilized) and in soils from experimental columns and field sites applied with those sludge products. Fibers (isolated by water extraction and examined using polarized light microscopy) were detectable in sludge products and in soil columns over 5 years after application, retaining characteristics observed in the applied sludge. Concentrations mirrored (within a factor of 2) predictions based on soil dilution. Fibers were detectable in field site soils up to 15 years after application, again retaining the characteristics seen in sludge products. Concentrations correlated with residual sludge metal concentration gradients in a well-characterized field site. Fibers found along preferential flow paths and/or in horizons largely below the mixed layer suggest some potential for translocation. Synthetic fibers were shown to be rapid and semi-quantitative indicators of past sludge application.

                Author and article information

                Sci Adv
                Science advances
                American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
                July 2017
                : 3
                : 7
                [1 ] Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA.
                [2 ] College of Engineering, University of Georgia, 412 Driftmier Engineering Center, Athens, GA 30602, USA.
                [3 ] Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA.


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