How plastics came to be and why it’s hurting us now

by Kathy Xu

China accounts for almost a third of plastics use in the world, and recent studies have shown that the bulk of plastics found in the world’s oceans come mostly from Asian rivers. Exactly how big a role does Asia play in the plastics problem?

When, and why did humans start using plastic?

John Wesley Hyatt and Leo Baekeland

What are plastics made of?

Illustration done by Amanda Teo. Data from Plastics make it possible

What are plastics used in?
How is the use of plastic impacting our oceans and marine life?

Plastic bag floating in the ocean

The duration to biodegrade various products

Is plastic pollution an Asian problem?

Kuching, Malaysia, circa May 2018—Image by Rich Carey

What goes around, comes around—how plastics ingestion by marine animals possibly affect human health
What's next? Bans, alternatives and new problems
Disclaimer: Our stories have been researched and fact-checked to the best of our abilities. Should you spot mistakes, inaccuracies, or have queries about our sources, please drop us an e-mail at
Illustration / Amanda Teo
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