Since the 1950s, humans have produced about 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic. Every year, 8 million metric tons end up in the ocean. Globally, only 9% of plastics are recycled.
Plastics are useful. They're used to help make lifesaving medical supplies, lightweight, fuel-efficient car parts, and insulation for our homes. But nearly half of all plastic produced goes towards single-use items such as bags, straws, utensils and takeout containers. As the waste piles up, there's a growing demand for alternatives.
There's a number of companies trying to develop cost-efficient and eco-friendly substitutes, from mushroom packaging to advanced fibers and plastic-free online shopping. But it may take serious legislative efforts to incentive adoption and slow the rise of the industry overall.