How much plastic will we have in 2050?

The world is addicted to plastic, and our dependence only grows day by day. Left unchecked, the amount of plastic on earth is expected to grow to nearly 4X today’s levels by the year 2050.


By 2050

Things are not all doom and gloom, however. Over the past decade, the world has come together to take action against the reckless creation of new plastic. We have seen advances in technology, new government policies, and behavioral changes that will have noticable impacts on the production of new plastic.
These advances are set to continue in the future. Here is an optimistic view of how we might be able to keep our plastic production in line – or maybe even below – today’s levels.

As you scroll through the list, each scenario will activate. Try clicking on the checkboxes to the left to see the impact each advance might have on the growth of plastic!


Ban on some single use plastic in North America

A ban on single-use plastics is implemented in much of North America. The ban reduces pollution from single-use plastic products and packaging – such as shopping bags, straws, cutlery, plates, and stir sticks


Ban on single use plastic in China

The ban on single-use plastic extends throughout China.


Increased recycling from industry leaders

290 companies who signed the ‘New Plastics Economy Global Commitment’ in 2018 achieve reuse, recycling or composting of 100% of packaging sold worldwide.


Increased recycling capacity

Massive expansion of mechanical recycling capacity results in a growth of recycling from 12% to 20% [1]


New recycling technology

Monomer recycling overcomes its cost limitations and enters the mainstream. This new approach to plastic recycling can produce a more stable plastic by breaking up the chemically components of the recycled plastic and chemically re-building new plastic. This process can be repeated endlessly and can tweak the makeup of plastic to suit the desired needs.


Advances in packaging and delivery of food

New advances in farming allow fresh produce to be delivered directly from the farm to consumers, and compost is returned to farms for reuse.


Advances in packaging and delivery of consumer items

Nearly all products are purchased online and delivered via drones and self-driving vehicles. New regulations are put in place to ban plastic wrap outside of boxes.


New packaging technology

Mycelium gains widespread adoption in packaging and product design.


Complete ban on soft-shell plastic

Soft-shell plastic is banned from all non-medical usage

Please note: it’s really hard to estimate exactly when these technologies and policies will come into effect, and what will happen if they do. Whenever possible we’ve tried to link to additional articles or resources to back up our estimates, but these numbers are ultimately just estimates. Hopefully they give you a rough idea of what can be done!