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New research shows that humans have produced just over 9 billion tons of plastic since
1950, with much of it still sitting around in our landfills and oceans. And there's no sign that plastic
production is slowing down anytime soon. "We are rapidly heading towards 'Planet Plastic,' and
if we don't want to live on that kind of world then we may have to rethink how we use some
materials, in particular plastic," said industrial ecologist, Roland Geyer. The rate of production has
increased so much that half of that 9 billion tons of plastic was created in just the last 13 years.
“It’s not just that we make a lot, it’s that we also make more, year after year,” said Geyer.
Though the U.S. and Europe produce sizable amounts of plastic, the growth of China has
fueled much of the recent increase. China is now the world's largest producer of the oil-based
product, but the country is also one of the biggest recyclers, giving 25 percent of plastics new life.
(The U.S. only recycles around nine percent of its plastic). Most of the material produced,
however, is discarded. Only about 2 billion tons of the products are still in use. That's because
unlike many other materials designed for more permanent uses, a sizable amount of the world's
plastic is made to be disposable. More than 40 percent of the non-fiber plastic ever produced has
been for plastic packaging made to be ripped off and thrown away without a second thought.
Roughly 54 percent of the plastic thrown away in 2015 was packaging.
What happens when that plastic is tossed is what worries scientists most. On average,
only about nine percent of Earth's 9 billion tons of plastic has been recycled. And that recycling
only delays its journey into the trash. "The purpose of recycling is to keep material in use for as
long as you can," explained Geyer, but in reality, about 90 percent of recycled plastic only gets
recycled once. The only permanent way to get rid of our plastic products is incineration, but only
about 12 percent of plastic has ever met this fate. And researchers disagree about the safety of
burning plastic, which has the potential to release a host of toxic chemicals into the environment.
What happened to the remaining 60 percent of plastic not currently being used? The
answer isn't pretty. If it doesn't fill up landfills, that plastic ends up scattered on city streets, across
landscapes and especially in oceans. Previous research has found that there may be more
than 250,000 tons of plastic currently floating in Earth's oceans, much of it in the form of tiny
chunks that can easily be carried by currents and consumed by sea creatures big and small.

Adapted from:

Reading questions:
I. Circle the correct meaning for each of the following words in the passage
1. Landfill
a. an empty piece of land.
b. an area of ground in which dead bodies are buried.
c. a place to dispose waste material by burying it and covering it over with soil
2. Sizable
a. Slight
b. Substantial
c. Infinitesimal
3. Disposable
a. an article designed to be thrown away after use
b. an article adapted for use in a different purpose
c. the process of converting waste materials into new materials and objects
4. Incineration
a. the process of compacting waste and burying them in layers
b. the destruction of something, especially waste material, by burning
c. the process of disposing toxic products by burying them in sanitary landfill
5. Current
a. a body of water or air moving in a definite direction
b. a long body of water curling into an arched form and breaking on the shore
c. series of mechanical waves that propagate along the interface between water and air

II. Decide if the statements below are Yes, No, or Not Given
 Yes – the statement agrees with the claims of the writer
 No – the statement contradicts the claims of the writer
 Not Given – it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this

1. Plastic production has grown rapidly in the past thirteen years.

2. The U.S is the number one plastic producer in the world.
3. According to the text, plastic is made from oil.
4. Europe is second to China in recycling.
5. Most plastics are produced with a purpose to be thrown away after use.
6. Scientists are not too concerned with the future of plastic waste.
7. The safest and most effective way to destroy products made from plastic is by setting
them on fire.

III. Answer the following questions

1. What does Roland Geyer mean when he said, “We are rapidly heading towards ‘Planet
2. Which country produces the most plastic products in the world?
3. What happened to the plastics that are not being used by people?
4. What is the goal of recycling?
5. Why is it dangerous to throw away plastic to the ocean?

IV. Reading discussion (Group Work)

1. Reflect on your habits in using plastic. How often do you use plastic in a day?
2. With other members of your group, think about three to four creative ways to reduce the
use of plastic.
3. Now, think about three to four creative ways to repurpose and/or recycle plastic used for
4. Create a short but fun and informative presentation about the 3Rs (Reduce, Repurpose
& Recycle) of plastic!