The world has a big plastics problem, and it’s about 5-billion tons big. It’s choking the oceans, clogging the waterways and polluting the earth; it’s even in the air we breathe. And the plastic is not going anywhere: it takes about 400 years to degrade and, even then, it breaks down into ever-smaller fragments that permeate the environment.

In a landmark 2017 study for the journal Science Advances, researchers found that of the 8.3-billion tons of plastic produced since the introduction of the material in the 1950s, 6.3-billion had become plastic waste by 2015. Of that, just 9% had been recycled, 12% had been incinerated and 79% (about 5-billion tons) was languishing in landfills around the world...

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