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An Indian garbage collector sleeps on the waste plastic bottles on World Environment Day. Prabhat Kumar Verma/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
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Disko-Bay, GreenlandArterra/UIG via Getty Images
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Plastic bottles litter the Ghadir River as it pours into the Mediterranean Sea near Beirut's International Airport. ANWAR AMRO/AFP/Getty Images
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Installation made of recycled plastic bottles in Rio de Janeiro, on June 19, 2012, in the sidelines of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20. The UN conference, which marks the 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit -- a landmark 1992 gathering that opened the debate on the future of the planet and its resources -- is the largest ever organized, with 50,000 delegates. AFP PHOTO / Christophe Simon (Photo credit should read CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/GettyImages
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Hanoi, VietnamHOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images
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Belgrade, SerbiaANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images
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Beijing, China - the world's biggest emitter of the greenhouse gases.FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images
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Sea turtle lies lifeless, wrapped in plastic on the shores of Ipojuca, Brazil. Marcos Souza/Brazil Photo Press/LatinContent/Getty Images
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Three young boys collect cans and plastic bottles in Siem Reap, Cambodia. EyesWideOpen/Getty Images
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Huaibei, ChinaVCG via Getty Images
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London, United Kingdom. The state of the art plant is the first in the UK to produce food grade recycled plastic from bottle waste. Over 35,00 tonnes of plastic bottles are recycled at the plant annually, representing almost 20% of the plastic bottles currently collected for recycling in the UK, and saving approximately 52,500 tons of carbon dioxide per year. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
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Wuhan, ChinaChina Photos/Getty Images
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Maria Ponce, 76, stands inside her house made out of plastic bottles, in the village of El Borbollon, El Salvador. Maria built up the house with plastic bottles because she didn't have enough money to buy materials. Jose CABEZAS/AFP/Getty Images
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Beijing, ChinaChina Photos/Getty Images
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Mianzhu, ChinaChina Photos/Getty Images
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Mumbai, India Satish Bate/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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Qingdao, China. The waste recycling industry provides a livelihood to low income people living in temporary houses on the outskirts of Chinese cities.Hong Wu/Getty Images
People Have Made Enough Plastic To Cover Argentina, New Study Says
Scientists have conducted the world's first tally of how much plastic we've made and where all of it went. And they're absolutely horrified.
"We all knew there was a rapid and extreme increase in plastic production from 1950 until now, but actually quantifying the cumulative number for all plastic ever made was quite shocking," Jenna Jambeck, an environmental engineer who specializes in plastic waste in the oceans, told National Geographic.
If the findings of the study, published Wednesday in Science Advances journal, are shocking to people whose job it is to know about plastic -- the numbers should certainly be astounding to those of us who rarely consider the crisis at hand.
8.3 billion tons!
“If you take the 8.3bn tonnes of plastic and spread it out as ankle deep waste – about 10 inches high – I calculated I could cover an area the size of Argentina with it," the study's lead author, Roland Geyer, told The Guardian. "That is the world’s eighth largest country.”
Of those -- I repeat -- 8.3 billion tons of already-produced plastic, 6.3 billion tons have already become trash. And 79 percent of that plastic waste is currently sitting in landfills or nature.
Eight million tons of it ends up in the oceans each year -- meaning five grocery bags per each foot of coastline.
With these staggering quantities, the report's authors fear we're approaching a "near-permanent contamination of the natural environment."
If we continue in this way, there will be 12 million tons of plastic in landfills by 2050. That's the equivalent of 35,000 Empire State Buildings of plastic garbage.