Humans have produced 8.3bn tonnes of plastic since the 1950s with the majority ending up in landfill or polluting the world’s continents and oceans, according to a new report.

The first global analysis of all mass–produced plastics has found that it has outstripped most other man-made materials, threatening a “near permanent contamination of the natural environment”.

The study by US academics found that the total amount of plastic produced – equivalent in weight to one billion elephants – will last for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. And with production expected to accelerate over the coming decades, campaigners warn it is creating an environmental crisis comparable to climate change.

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