How do we turn oil into plastic?

“Only we humans make waste that nature can’t digest.” Those are the words of oceanographer Capt. Charles Moore, who discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 1997. And, of course, he’s talking about plastic.

Most people reading this will probably have something made of plastic within their line of sight. This material is ubiquitous: we’re now producing more than 300 million tons (272 metric tons) of plastic a year, and roughly half of that is intended for single-use — meaning that it’s discarded immediately after it has served its purpose. This has led to a mounting problem of plastic waste going to landfills, and some of this waste gets blown off course and makes its way into rivers and ultimately the sea. In fact, around 8 million tons (7.2 million metric tons) of plastic pollution enters the ocean every year, where it entangles marine life, pollutes coral reefs and ultimately — subjected to degradation by water, wind and sun — breaks apart into trillions of tiny microplastic pieces

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