A Brief History of Plastic

Planet or Plastic? A Quick Look at How We Became Reliant on Plastic

As part of our coverage of National Geographic’s important multiyear Plastic or Planet? initiative, we wanted to share this quick video showing the meteoric rise of single-use plastic after WWII.

A Brief History of Single-Use Plastic

  • Before 1950, plastic wasn’t a big part of our lives

    Vinyl Record
  • During WW2, the military discovered the versatility of plastic

    WWII Parachutes
  • In the 1950s, companies found more ways to use this cheaper material

  • By the 1960s, global plastic production increased 400% as we embraced a new “disposable lifestyle”

    Plastic Cups Plates Cutlery
  • In the 1970s, we started to become concerned about the effects of plastic on human health

    Plastic Health Concerns
  • But our love for plastic continued; by 1979, we were producing more plastic than steel

    Water Bottles
  • In 1987, the “Garbage Barge” made headlines

    Garbage Barge
  • In 2007, San Francisco banned plastic bags

    Plastic Bags
  • In 2014, plastic bag usage in the U.S. topped 100 billion

  • In 2015, the plastics industry lobbied successfully to ban plastic bag bans in some states

comment_2Plastic continues to choke our planet and threaten lifeforms worldwide. While recycling is good, refusing is even better. In what ways have you replaced plastic in your home? Please share your ideas with our readers below.


Do you remember to bring reusable bags when you go shopping?

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