“If plastic had been invented when the Pilgrims sailed from Plymouth, England, to North America—and the Mayflower had been stocked with bottled water and plastic-wrapped snacks—their plastic trash would likely still be around, four centuries later … Because plastic wasn’t invented until the late 19th century, and production really only took off around 1950, we have a mere 9.2 billion tons of the stuff to deal with. Of that, more than 6.9 billion tons have become waste. And of that waste, a staggering 6.3 billion tons never made it to a recycling bin.” The glut of plastic waste in our landfills and waterways feels like an old story. But it’s actually a pretty modern problem, and it’s also one that’s only getting worse. NatGeo has a solid report (with some jaw-dropping photos) that provides a good overview of how bad the problem is (bad), and what’s being done about it (not enough). We Made Plastic. We Depend On It. Now We’re Drowning In It.

+ Forty percent of plastic produced is packaging, used just once and then discarded. Nearly half of all plastic ever manufactured has been made since 2000. Here are some fast facts about plastic pollution.