Where does our plastic trash go?

Clearly, plastic contributes to a large portion of the humans waste that pollutes the environment. Although we are told to reduce, reuse, and recycle, much of our plastic is disposed of improperly and ends up in places where it has the potential to cause great harm, such as the ocean.

The graph I chose details the portion of plastic trash that is disposed of improperly as well as the portion of that plastic that ends up in the ocean. In 201o, 275 million tonnes of plastic trash was produced. Of this 275 million tonnes of total plastic waste, 31.9 million tonnes were disposed of improperly and, therefore, 243.1 million tonnes were disposed of properly. Although at face value it seems like this means we’re doing pretty well with recycling, when I calculated the percentage I discovered that this means 11.6% was disposed of improperly and 88.4% was disposed of properly. This means more than 1 in 10 articles of plastic waste were not recycled, which gives these stats perspective and shows that we are really slacking on recycling. Additionally, of the 31.9 million tonnes of improperly disposed plastic waste, 8.75 million tonnes ended up in the ocean, which is 27.4% of the improperly disposed of plastic and 3.2 percent of all plastic waste.

By further interpreting graphs such as this one, it is possible to gain a more comprehensive perspective on the real meaning behind the numbers and what they really mean.

4 thoughts on “Where does our plastic trash go?

  1. I think the points you’ve raised make it clear why it is so important to understand the background data behind a graph or statistic or statement. It can so easily be misleading. Thinking 243.1 million tonnes of plastic were recycled in 2010 might give you the impression the world is stepping it up in terms of recycling and carbon footprint consciousness. Yet, when you find out that 11.6% was mismanaged, that 31.9 million tonnes were improperly disposed of, you get an entirely different sentiment.

  2. This put into perspective how much garbage ends up in our oceans. Though it seems relatively small at face value, like you said, these numbers are substantial. Graphs really do help put into perspective these big numbers, but I am interested to see more in depth interpretations. This would be a perfect example to have an interactive graph with so you could really focus in on what issues are more prevalent than others on a greater scale.

  3. I think this is a really interesting kind of graph because it puts the size of the improperly managed waste in relation to the properly managed waste in a unique visual way. Although, I do feel like the graph loses it’s impact because it is not on an x/y axis of sorts, and I can’t help but feel that if it was delivered in a different graph format the magnitude of these numbers would be more clear to the reader.

  4. I really like the box design of this graph. It effectively shows in an easy to understand format how much plastic is recycled effectively, and how much isn’t. I’m honestly surprised at how much plastic was recycled responsibly, I expected the number of plastic that ended up in the ocean to be much higher. I think this graph is indicative that humans, in some aspects, are being responsible with our environment. That being said there is still obvious room for improvement.

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