Plastic pollution history facts and figures: When did plastic pollution start?

Table of Contents

Plastics are one of the world’s most detrimental discoveries. Imagine this, 35% of the plastics used by People in the annual ‘Amarnath Yatra’ an annual pilgrimage tour in India, in the year 2011, are still intact. The wear and tear is the bare minimum to only 23%.

With plastics becoming a hindrance for humanity and earth to survive, this non- biodegradable material, invented by us, for our very own disposal, has forced us to think, plastic or planet.

Terrifying facts of plastic pollution

In 2011, this global fight was one of the major topics of discussion at the Fourth UN Environment Assembly in 2018- Nairobi, Kenya.

Let’s look at some of the terrifying facts of how the use of disposable plastics has superseded our ability to deal with them.

  • It is estimated that about 5.3 million to 14 million tons of plastic garbage land up in the ocean just from the coastal areas. This includes garbage from coastal cities as well as the garbage from the ocean that was washed up ashore.
  • If a count is taken then, approximately 269,000 tons of plastic or 51 trillion microscopic pieces of plastic in is what invades our planet today. This number is growing with time and us, and now it’s drowning us.
  • A comparison to understand the severity of our situation. In 1950, with a population of 2.5 billion, the number of plastics produced was 1.5 million tons; But in 2016, with a population of approximately 7 billion. The amount of plastic garbage that was produced was mind-bogglingly 320 million tons. This is set to double by 2034.
  • In this suffocation by plastic, the oceans are the worst hit — an approx. One million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals and turtles are killed annually by marine plastic pollution annually, and about 60 to 90% of marine debris is consistently made up of plastics.

Food for thought

The number of 51 trillion microscopic pieces of plastic is almost 500 times more than the stars in our galaxy, and knowing the global situation, we all would prefer stars to plastic.

When did plastic pollution start?

Plastic was never comprehended to be perennial when it was made. Much less its ability to be in so much demand that one day it would overwhelm the same minds that made it.

Plastic became a pollutant from quite an early era, but the realization hit us late. It was only when the population boom happened, and the use of plastics started showing effects on the environment leading to extinction and death of a humongous number of marine animals; it was then that the ‘wolf cry’ was raised.

Below is a peek into the history of when did plastics pollution start and became a dominant age-old battle for humans, which is still yet to win.

  • Year 1946: The event of The first National Plastics Exhibition in New York City showcased plastics to use for people to aid during World War II. This was the first time when the commercial production plastics increased by three-foldd.
  • Year 1979: Introduction of Plastic bags for grocery in the U.S.
  • Year 1980: The first awareness of campaign against excessive usage of plastic was already done in the 1960s but, Woodbury, New Jersey initiated a curbside recycling campaign against litter and garbage disposal
  • The 1990s: This was the era where the world jumped into a different modern era with everything in a flair. This was the time when plastic microbeads got its place in the cosmetics industry and were widely in demand.
  • Year 1997: This was again the first time when Charles Moore spotted a floating garbage while sailing, and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch of the Pacific ocean, was discovered.
  • 2002: After one of the severe floods that Bangladesh had, it became the first country to ban plastic bags because it was the plastics that clogged their drains, making it impossible for the water to recede.
  • 2007: The state of San Francisco raises its voice against the plastic ban and becomes the first U.S. city to implement a ban on plastic bags.
  • 2008: The health issues of plastic emerged, and it was clear that plastic was humanity’s death. According to a government study, one of the elements – Bisphenol A, used to make plastic bottles and even a part of baby formula bottles is responsible for increasing the risks of cancer, early puberty, etc. leading to a universal awareness about this deadly everyday material.
  • 2014The Netherlands takes its stand against plastic and becomes the first country to put a ban on cosmetic microbeads.
  • 2017: An initiative was undertaken by BBC’s Blue Planet II, which uses actual damaging footage of the impact of plastic on earth to increase the global concern & awareness about ocean plastics.
  • 2018: Initiation of ‘the Earth Day Network’ that intends on focussing on ending plastic pollution by 2020.

This list of years proves that it’s the late 80s and early 90s people started realizing the detriments of plastic, and it was about this period that confirms that this was the time when did plastic pollution actually start.

When was plastic popularized?

Let us understand in a nutshell when was plastically popularized:

Plastic became popular around the time of the 1960s. Even though the first plastics were created way before then, it was actually in 1953 that high-density polyethylene was created, which was difficult to break down. It resembled the plastic bags at the grocery store.

Slowly over the years 1960, 1977, and 1979 saw an increase in availability and demand for plastic bags with plastic bags used for packaging, exports, and seeping its way into every fragment of our daily lives.

1985 was a significant year as commercial acceptance towards this material increased by many folds because of the cheaper cost of production and usability.

By 1985, the demand for mindless use of plastic bags went through the roof with 75% supermarkets using plastic bags for every use.

Now, even though we have realized the extent of damage that we have done, this problem has become a serious environmental issue. The time when was plastically popularized, if we had an insight on its long- term implications, it could have been nipped in the bud. But with so much awareness and effort towards plastic usage, especially in developing nations, it now comes down to each of us. If each one of us eliminates plastic completely from our lives, then maybe we can gather up the resources to fight the existing damage. But if we don’t stop now, it is going to consume us and our planet sooner than expected.

People are also reading: