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A World of Plastic

“Plastics,” National Geographic (June 2018)

By Laura Parker

Reviewed by Herman Greene


National Geographic magazine increasingly is paying attention to the state of our planet. The impact of plastics is the subject of the feature article of its June 2018 issue. This review covers some of the learnings from the article.

When Thomas Berry talked, he often lamented the growth in the use of chemicals. Plastics are novel human chemical compounds unknown to nature until recently. Berry could not have imagined the extent of the growth in plastics, nor could I without reading this article. Global plastic production has increased from 2.3 million tons in 1950 to 448 million tons in 2015. Just since Berry died in 2009, annual production has grown by over 100 million tons. Half the plastic ever produced has been produced in the last 15 years and production is still increasing.*

* The June 2018 National Geographic article contains this graph by Jason Treat and Ryan T. Williams of the magazine’s staff. Source: Roland Geyer, University of California, Santa Barbara.