Using the information from Statista, we have documented global plastic production from 1950 to 2018 and analysed it alongside global population figures and the introduction of new laws. From this, we’ve created a graph to show exactly where we are in terms of our use of plastic.
The plastic timeline
From the graph, you can see the rise of plastic production is in line with population growth. This also correlates with the fact that laws relating to plastic only started to become more common from 2006.
But, as the key talking points show, there’s plenty to discuss when it comes to the plastic timeline.
Key talking points
Neil Armstrong plants a nylon flag on the moon in 1969 as plastic starts to become a go-to material in the 1970s.
In 1977, the plastic bag was introduced to the grocery industry as an alternative to the paper bag—something we’re trying to revert back to 40-plus years later.
Production takes a noticeable dip as laws start to be introduced.
As shown on the timeline, global laws started to become more common. At least 23 laws, levies or pieces of legislation were introduced between 2008 and 2010 in 21 different countries.
Laws reach their peak, but production surpasses population
Laws started to reach their peak around 2017. Free disposable plastic bags were banned in Catalonia, and Slovenia rolled this ban out on a national level.
But plastic production started to surpass population growth at this time. The reason? Well, global e-commerce sales totalled $2.38 billion in 2017, hitting $3.54 billion last year. The online boom comes with the need for packaging, which is often plastic.
New laws start to decline despite production increase
From 2018, new laws started to tail off, but production and population levels continued to rise. This may be due to the fact that certain laws, levies and legislation had been introduced in previous years, but it opens the debate that there’s still work to be done in order to help solve the world’s plastic problem.
There are encouraging signs though. In October 2020, a UK ban on the supply of plastic straws, stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds came into force.