Plastic Atlas

Facts and figures about the world of synthetic polymers

A world without plastic?

The Plastic Atlas has the hard facts, data and figures to prove that the story of plastic that industry is telling us is a myth. We need urgent and drastic reductions in plastic production and consumption and regulation at the local, national and global level that tackle plastic pollution at the source.

Politics must hold the plastic industry accountable.

Barbara Unmüßig

Plastic Atlas (Launch 6th of November 2019) - Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung

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Plastic Atlas demonstrates scale of plastic pollution crisis and solutions for a zero waste future 

Press Release  49 detailed infographics over 19 chapters cover many aspects of plastic production, consumption and disposal.

Contributions from the Plastic Atlas

All infographics from the Plastic Atlas

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The solutions to the plastic and climate crisis need to go hand in hand.
Lili Fuhr

All infographics from the Plastic Atlas

Plastic Atlas - 12 brief lessons on plastic and the planet

Further Reading


Dossier: We live in a world full of plastic - Plastic has become pervasive in our daily lives. It is in our food and drinking water, in our clothing and cosmetics, in our consumer articles and vehicles. But we are just beginning to understand the full extent of how plastic pollutes and contaminates our environment and bodies. Who is responsible and what are the effects on humans and nature? What are the solutions? In order to change course we need a sound understanding of the players, the extent and the implications of the plastic crisis. Our plastics dossier is a contribution to this cause.

About the Plastic Atlas

In 19 chapters, our Plastic Atlas deals with very different aspects of plastic, illustrated by infographics. The Plastic Atlas looks at rising global plastic production fueled and expanded by cheap cracked natural gas. The USA alone plans to increase its plastic production by 30 percent in the next few years. Because 99 percent of all plastics are produced from fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal, the climate-damaging emissions along the life cycle of plastics are enormous. The Plastic Atlas explains this cycle from extraction, processing and use to disposal and the resulting problems.

Plastic waste is a lucrative business
The question of plastic waste naturally plays an important role in the Plastic Atlas. In order to stop the plastic flood, current efforts are concentrating primarily on waste management and consumers. This plays into the hands of the plastics industry, because it can shift the responsibility for the plastics crisis onto consumers and at the same time point the finger at Southeast Asia, which suffers the most from the garbage. Because the trade with plastic waste is a lucrative business and a large part of our plastic waste from Europe and other industrial countries is exported there.

More recently, we have realised that plastic is also an acute - and even deadly - threat to human health. And not only for people, for almost every organism on this planet, plastic has harmful consequences that can cause damage to the immune and reproductive systems, the liver and kidneys, and even cancer. The Plastic Atlas deals with plastics and health and also with the question of how women and men are affected in different ways.


Plastic Atlas also shows solutions
Nevertheless, there is reason for hope. The Plastic Atlas introduces the growing global movement Break Free From Plastic, which tackles the problem at its roots, holds those responsible accountable and contributes to the emergence and growth of zero waste cities and communities around the world. A new global plastics convention could prevent growing pollution from plastics at all stages of the production cycle as well as harm to human health.

A world without plastic pollution is a vision worth fighting for. Because plastic is an issue that concerns and moves each and every one of us. And we have only just begun to understand the enormous dimensions of this crisis. A change of course requires a sound knowledge of the causes, drivers and effects of the plastics crisis and the plastic atlas.


Plastic Atlas 2019

Facts and figures about the world of synthetic polymers