An increase in plastic production has become serious problem as plastic materials cannot naturally break down easily and are instead, polluting land and marine environments alike. One of the most infamous examples of plastic pollution, is the Great Pacific garbage patch, which is an area in the Pacific Ocean with a high concentration of plastic waste, especially microplastics, and other garbage. It can take hundreds of years for plastic to breakdown in water and often the subsequent fragments, macro- and micro-plastics, can enter the environment and eventually ingested into the bodies of living organisms, including humans. The movement and degradation of plastic materials has not been well studied in the past. Current research on the lifecycle of plastic products, including its natural degradation and break down, is being undertaken among various global leaders such as the World Bank.
At the beginning of 2018, China decided it would no longer take plastic waste and other recyclables from foreign countries, which may result in an increase in the number of plastics products that end up in landfills as opposed to recycling centers. To combat the ban and reduce waste, the United States has reduced a significant amount of their scrap plastic exports. In response, other countries like Malaysia and Thailand have increased their scrap plastic purchases in an effort to bolster their recycling markets. Experts have also noted that a growing number of exporters are incorrectly labeling shipments of plastics to avoid import restrictions. In major exporting countries like the United States and Japan, many recycling programs have been put on hold as it is often cheaper to produce new plastics than to recycle old materials.