The plastics life cycle includes extraction of raw materials; design and production; packaging and distribution; use and maintenance; and recycling, reuse, recovery or final disposal. After plastic items have been consumed or used, these items may follow several different routes.
Some are collected and sorted through formal or informal waste management schemes or by manufacturers, turned into plastic pellets or flakes, and re-enter the production and use phase (UNEP and GRID-Arendal 2016). However, most plastics are incinerated, openly burned, disposed of in landfills/dumpsites, or escape into the environment (Geyer et al. 2017; Geyer 2020). It is estimated that since the 1950s no more than 10% of plastics have re-entered the value chain (i.e. have been recycled or reused) (Geyer 2020). Removal from the value chain has both economic impacts, due to loss of resources, and environmental impacts.
From collection: Drowning in Plastics: Marine Litter and Plastic Waste Vital Graphics