PLASTICS

PLASTICS

Plastic has a big carbon footprint, accounting for 3.8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Made of oil, gas, and coal, plastic generates heat-trapping gases at every stage of their life cycle.  The extraction and transportation of fuels, refining, and manufacturing are greenhouse-gas intensive. Plastic even emits traces of methane and ethylene when exposed to sunlight, and incineration releases all the stored carbon in the plastic into the atmosphere, along with other air pollutants.

And because plastic doesn’t decay, it doesn’t ever stop polluting. Humans have made 8.3bn tons of plastic since 1950, and to complicate the situation further, the vast majority of plastic is not actually getting recycled. A profound amount is ending up in the ocean, with an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastics entering the ocean yearly. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, located between Hawaii and California,  is the largest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world. And, a recent study on microplastic pollution in oceans has found that the problem has been grossly underestimated. 

In 2019, a study published in Nature found that the amount of plastic could triple in 2060 if we do nothing about it. Find a Plastic Footprint calculator here and 15 ways to shrink your footprint here

In May 2022, a report “The Real Truth About the U.S. Plastic Recycling Rate” documented a recycling rate of 5-6% for post-consumer plastic waste in the U.S. for 2021. The per capita generation of platic waste has increased by 263% since 1980, the report said.

Join the reuse revolution here and learn about 10 simple steps you can take to move closer to zero waste.

CURRENT NEWS

KEY RESOURCES

A Poison Like No Other: How Microplastics Corrupted Our Planet and Our Bodies Hardcover – October 27, 2022

10/28/22
It’s falling from the sky and in the air we breathe. It’s in our food, our clothes, and our homes. It’s microplastic and it’s everywhere—including our own bodies. Scientists are just beginning to discover how…

Beyond Plastics

09/07/22
Beyond Plastics is a nationwide project based at Bennington College in Bennington, Vermont, that pairs the wisdom and experience of environmental policy experts with the energy and creativity of college students to build a vibrant…

Plastic Proliferation Threatens the Climate on a Global Scale

05/02/22
The plastic pollution crisis that overwhelms our oceans is also a significant and growing threat to the Earth’s climate. At current levels, greenhouse gas emissions from the plastic lifecycle threaten the ability of the global…

Alaska Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE-Alaska) Webinar

02/23/22
Plastics have become an everyday part of our lives, including the many unintended consequences of plastic production, use, and disposal. Chemicals added to plastics – to make them stronger, more flexible, or UV resistant –…

The fundamental links between climate change and marine plastic pollution

02/01/22
Plastic pollution and climate change have commonly been treated as two separate issues and sometimes are even seen as competing. Here we present an alternative view that these two issues are fundamentally linked. Primarily, we…

How do Microplastics Affect Our Health?

09/20/21
The use of plastic is one of the conveniences of modern life, but in recent years microplastic contamination has become an emerging global concern. Microplastics ––plastic particles measuring less than 5mm ––are everywhere ––from the…

Microplastics and human health

02/12/21
The ubiquity of microplastics in the global biosphere raises increasing concerns about their implications for human health. Recent evidence indicates that humans constantly inhale and ingest microplastics; however, whether these contaminants pose a substantial risk…

Plastics pose threat to human health

12/15/20
Plastics contain and leach hazardous chemicals, including endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that threaten human health. An authoritative new report, Plastics, EDCs, & Health, from the Endocrine Society and the IPEN (International Pollutants Elimination Network), presents a…

Breaking the Plastic Wave: Top Findings for Preventing Plastic Pollution

10/01/20
First-of-its-kind modeling analysis describes actions needed to stop plastic from entering the ocean.

BYOB – Bring Your Own Bag

03/28/20
New state and local laws permanently banning plastic bags will attempt to force a habit change among local consumers and retailers. According to Forbes, nearly 350 cities in 25 states now require the use of…

MacRebur: The Plastic Road Company

03/02/20
MacRebur’s mission is to help solve the waste plastic epidemic and the poor quality of roads we drive on around the world today. Our innovative solution involves processing waste plastics destined for landfill or incineration…

Plastic Footprint Calculator

02/22/20
If you are wondering what your yearly plastic consumption is, check out the plastic footprint calculator

A Detailed Review Study on Potential Effects of Microplastics and Additives of Concern on Human Health

02/13/20
The distribution and abundance of microplastics into the world are so extensive that many scientists use them as key indicators of the recent and contemporary period defining a new historical epoch: The Plasticene. However, the…

Drowning in plastic: Visualising the world’s addiction to plastic bottles

11/30/19
In a setback for environmental groups, California lawmakers early Saturday morning ended the 2019 legislative session without passing two bills that would have been the most ambitious effort in the nation to reduce the massive…

BBC Plastics Watch

11/30/19
Resources, education, and solutions all about plastic.

How plastics contribute to climate change

11/27/19
They generate heat-trapping gases at every stage of their life cycle.

Mapping the Flow of the World’s Plastic Waste

11/27/19
The first plastic material, Bakelite, was invented in 1907. It made its way into everything you can imagine: telephones, chess pieces, Chanel jewelry, and electric guitars.

Parley for the Oceans

11/14/19
Parley for the Oceans addresses major threats towards our oceans, the most important ecosystem of our planet. We believe the power for change lies in the hands of the consumer – given we all have a…

Plastic & Health

02/01/19
Despite being one of the most pervasive materials on the planet, plastic and its impact on human health is poorly understood. Human exposure to it grows with increasing plastic production and use. Research into the…

A Whopping 91 Percent of Plastic Isn’t Recycled

12/20/18
Mass production of plastics, which began just six decades ago, has accelerated so rapidly that it has created 8.3 billion metric tons—most of it in disposable products that end up as trash. If that seems…

Public health impact of plastics: An overview

12/01/11
Plastic, one of the most preferred materials in today's industrial world is posing serious threat to environment and consumer's health in many direct and indirect ways. Exposure to harmful chemicals during manufacturing, leaching in the…

MORE NEWS

Microplastics May Be Cooling—and Heating—Earth’s Climate

By Matt Simon   10/20/22  
LIKE THE ASH spewed from a supervolcano, microplastics have infested the atmosphere and encircled the globe. These are bits of plastic less than 5 millimeters long, and they come in two main varieties. Fragments spawn…

California Passed a Landmark Law About Plastic Pollution. Why Are Some Environmentalists Still Concerned?

By James Bruggers   10/12/22  
California has a new environmental law that’s described as either a major milestone on the road to tackling the scourge of plastic pollution—or a future failure with a loophole big enough to accommodate a fleet…

Microplastics found in human breast milk for the first time

By Damian Carrington   10/07/22  
Microplastics have been detected in human breast milk for the first time, with researchers greatly concerned over the potential health impacts on babies. Infants are especially vulnerable to chemical contaminants and the scientists said further…

The Plastics Industry Searches for a ‘Circular’ Way to Cut Plastic Waste and Make More Plastics

By James Bruggers   09/30/22  
Plastics executives embraced climate solutions at a major industry conference here last week and said they were betting on “advanced recycling” as a green response to the plastic waste problem, despite market headwinds and growing…

A Legal Pot Problem That’s Now Plaguing the Streets of America: Plastic Litter

By James Bruggers   09/27/22  
Waste packaging from a burgeoning and newly legalized marijuana industry litters streets across the country, adding to a global crisis of plastic waste. In New York, regulators who are making the state’s first-ever rules for…

Baby Poop Is Loaded With Microplastics

By Matt Simon   09/22/22  
WHENEVER A PLASTIC bag or bottle degrades, it breaks into ever smaller pieces that work their way into nooks in the environment. When you wash synthetic fabrics, tiny plastic fibers break loose and flow out…

A New Plant in Indiana Uses a Process Called ‘Pyrolysis’ to Recycle Plastic Waste. Critics Say It’s Really Just Incineration

By James Bruggers   09/11/22  
The bales, bundles and bins of plastic waste are stacked 10 feet high in a shiny new warehouse that rises from a grassy field near a town known for its bright yellow smiley-face water tower.…

The Climate and Plastic

08/26/22  
Plastic pollution is one of the biggest environmental threats to this planet, and according to a report by the advocacy group Beyond Plastics, greenhouse gas emissions from plastic production in the United States are on…

How plastics contribute to climate change

By Brooke Bauman   08/20/22  
In 2015, Texas A&M graduate student Christine Figgener recorded a video of her colleagues removing a straw lodged in a turtle’s nostril. The video went viral, inspiring people to take action. Since then, “skip the…

Increasing the Circularity of #1 Plastic (PET) Recycling

By Mary McDonald   08/17/22  
Here’s a trick question. Can #1 plastics — otherwise known as PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastics — go in the recycling bin? Bet you thought the answer was yes. That’s only half right. It’s a trick…

The World’s Addiction to Plastic in Five Charts

08/16/22  
When it comes to the war on plastic, we aren’t even close to winning it. In the absence of significant intervention, demand for plastic is set to surge over the coming decades. Not only will…
AP

Billions pour into bioplastics as markets begin ramping up

By Mark Gillispie   08/09/22  
In a world increasingly troubled by the persistent harm that plastic — manufactured in petrochemical plants — has had on the environment, companies are investing billions of dollars to ramp up production of plastics made…

As alarm over plastic grows, Saudis ramp up production in the US

By Mark Schapiro   07/14/22  
The flares started last December, an event Errol Summerlin, a former legal-aid lawyer, and his neighbors had been bracing for since 2017. After the flames, nipping at the night sky like lashes from a heavenly…

‘We Want To Keep Plastic Out Of The Environment And In The Economy’

By Jamie Hailstone   07/11/22  
The global packaging company Amcor has joined forces with the Minderoo Foundation for the Sea the Future project, which plans to build a worldwide network of sorting and recycling plants.

California’s sweeping new plastics law could be a game changer

By Laura Parker   07/07/22  
The United States creates more plastic trash than any other country and ranks third among coastal nations for contributing litter, illegally dumped trash, and other mismanaged waste to its beaches. Yet, even with such an…

California requires plastics makers to foot the bill for recycling

By Winston Choi-Schagrin   07/01/22  
The landmark legislation also restricts single-use plastics. Because California’s economy is so big, experts say, the law could have far-reaching effects.

Newsom signs nation’s most sweeping law to phase out single-use plastics and packaging waste

By Susanne Rust   06/30/22  
The legislation heads off a November ballot measure that many lawmakers and the plastics industry hoped to avoid, and it puts California at the forefront of national efforts to eliminate polystyrene and other plastics that…

Canada banning single-use plastics to combat pollution, climate change

By Adela Suliman   06/21/22  
Canada will ban the manufacture and importation of “harmful” single-use plastics by the end of the year, the government said, in a sweeping effort to fight pollution and climate change.

Interior Department to phase out single-use plastics on all public lands

By Joseph Winters   06/09/22  
In January, a poll commissioned by the ocean conservation nonprofit Oceana showed that 82 percent of Americans would support a ban on the sale and distribution of single-use plastics by the National Park Service. Now,…

Microplastics Found in Fresh Antarctic Snow

By Kevin Hurler   06/08/22  
Microplastics continue to infiltrate even the most remote parts of Earth. New research has identified tiny bits of plastic in the continent’s snowfall, likely arriving there from local sources, according to the team. These particles…

Global plastic waste expected to nearly triple by 2060

By Erin Doherty   06/03/22  
Driving the news: About half of the plastic waste produced globally is expected to end up in a landfill and less than a fifth is expected to be recycled, OECD found. Plus, plastic consumption is…

Plastic recycling doesn’t work and will never work

By Judith Enck and Jan Dell   05/30/22  
If the plastics industry is following the tobacco industry’s playbook, it may never admit to the failure of plastics recycling.

2 new bills aim to reduce plastic pollution in New York state

By Joseph Winters   05/26/22  
Two bills introduced in the New York state assembly this month would place far-reaching requirements on plastic manufacturers, mandating that they pay for waste management and dramatically increase recycling rates, among other things.

Not so safe at home: new research points to higher airborne microplastic levels indoors

By Amber Allott   05/18/22  
The new study by a Canterbury scientist found about ten times more tiny pieces of plastic in the air of New Zealand homes than outdoors. The source of the airborne microplastics was mainly tiny fibres…

The ocean’s biggest garbage pile is full of floating life

By Annie Roth   05/06/22  
Researchers found that small sea creatures exist in equal number with pieces of plastic in parts of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which could have implications for cleaning up ocean pollution.

Big Oil Sold the World on a Plastics Recycling Myth. It May Be Too Late to Undo the Damage

By Alejandro De La Garza   05/05/22  
few weeks ago, my friend Brett Pogostin showed me a photograph of his girlfriend, Angie, taken on Padre Island National Seashore on the Texas Gulf Coast. They had driven 200 miles from Houston to visit…

California Attorney General Investigates the Oil and Gas Industry’s Role in Plastic Pollution, Subpoenas Exxon

By James Bruggers   04/30/22  
The oil and gas industry has a new battle to fight with California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s first-of-its-kind investigation into their role in the global plastics crisis—and it looks a lot like one they’ve been…

Yes, you’re consuming microplastics —

By Andrea Michelson   04/30/22  
Scientists are certain that humans around the world are ingesting tiny pieces of plastic on a regular basis. Now, they are seeking to understand how the wide distribution of microplastics affects human health and the…

Studies find microplastics in human lungs, blood stream; scientists investigating possible health risks

04/30/22  
Scientists from the Netherlands and the U.K. recently identified microplastics deep in the lungs of some surgical patients and in the blood of anonymous donors. Researchers say that it's possible to take in these particles…

Studies find microplastics in human lungs, blood stream; scientists investigating possible health risks

04/30/22  
Scientists from the Netherlands and the U.K. recently identified microplastics deep in the lungs of some surgical patients and in the blood of anonymous donors. Researchers say that it's possible to take in these particles…

California AG subpoenas Exxon for details on role in global plastic pollution

By Valerie Volcovici   04/29/22  
California's attorney general announced on Thursday he issued a subpoena to ExxonMobil (XOM.N) for information on its role in causing the global plastic waste crisis.

This AI-Designed Enzyme Can Devour Plastic Trash In Hours: Video

By David Vetter   04/28/22  
Scientists have developed a new enzyme variant that can completely break down waste plastic in under 24 hours, raising hopes that biological processes could provide a route to addressing perhaps part of the world’s mounting…

Microplastics are in our bodies. How much do they harm us?

By Laura Parker   04/26/22  
A few years ago, as microplastics began turning up in the guts of fish and shellfish, the concern was focused on the safety of seafood. Shellfish were a particular worry, because in their case, unlike…

Disease-causing parasites can hitch a ride on plastics and potentially spread through the sea, new research suggests

By Karen Shapiro and Emma Zhang   04/26/22  
Typically when people hear about plastic pollution, they might envision seabirds with bellies full of trash or sea turtles with plastic straws in their noses. However, plastic pollution poses another threat that’s invisible to the…

Trash or recycling? Why plastic keeps us guessing.

By Winston Choi-Schagrin and Hiroko Tabuchi   04/21/22  
Did you know the ♻ symbol doesn’t mean something is actually recyclable? Play our trashy garbage-sorting game. Then, read on about how we got here, and what can be done.

Microplastics in the human body: What we know and don’t know

By Evan Bush   04/11/22  
Few places on Earth — or in our bodies — seem to be free of microplastics. Researchers in recent months have announced the discovery of microplastics traveling in the bloodstream of a handful of anonymous…

Plastic and its impact on our health

04/06/22  
It's well known plastics are harmful to the environment, but this isn't the only thing plastics are impacting, according to the World Economic Forum. They can also be harmful to your health.

Microplastics found deep in lungs of living people for first time

By Damian Carrington   04/06/22  
Samples were taken from tissue removed from 13 patients undergoing surgery and microplastics were found in 11 cases. The most common particles were polypropylene, used in plastic packaging and pipes, and PET, used in bottles.…

There’s good reason to worry about the health risks of plastics

By Erika Veidis and Jamie Hansen   04/02/22  
An emerging domain of research shows that plastic consumption and pollution harms human health — particularly for the world’s lower-income communities.

Microplastics found in human blood for first time

By Damian Carrington   03/24/22  
Microplastic pollution has been detected in human blood for the first time, with scientists finding the tiny particles in almost 80% of the people tested. The discovery shows the particles can travel around the body…

How Corporate Collaboration Can Slow the Flow of Microplastics into the Environment

By Roya Sabri   03/22/22  
At this year’s Consumer Technology Association conference, Samsung — maker of phones, laptops, refrigerators and more — announced a lineup of sustainability initiatives for its home appliances. Among the initiatives was a collaboration with outdoor…

While Exxon Touts Net-Zero Promise, its Huge Plastics Complex Goes Online in Texas

By Julie Dermansky   01/27/22  
“Pledging to make your operations ‘net zero’ when your entire raison d’etre is to continue producing the fossil fuels destroying the livable world: this is like pledging to become more energy-efficient when your business is…

We know plastic pollution is bad – but how exactly is it linked to climate change?

By Charlotte Edmond   01/19/22  
From bags caught in hedgerows to bottles bobbing in the ocean, the visible signs of our single-use plastic addiction are everywhere. We all know that plastic pollution is a big problem. But what is less…
WEF

We know plastic pollution is bad – but how exactly is it linked to climate change?

By Charlotte Edmond   01/19/22  
From bags caught in hedgerows to bottles bobbing in the ocean, the visible signs of our single-use plastic addiction are everywhere. We all know that plastic pollution is a big problem. But what is less…

Americans agree on something: Get single-use plastics out of our national parks

By Brian Bienkowski   01/14/22  
About 82% of U.S. voters support stopping the sale of single-use plastics at national parks, according to a poll released today by the non-profit Oceana. U.S. national parks average 33 million visitors and nearly 70…

The Climate Footprint of Plastics and the Need for a Global Solution

By Justin Bernstein   01/13/22  
U.S. efforts to reclaim its climate change leadership, as demonstrated at COP26 in Glasgow, will be undermined if the country does not also step up and accelerate action on reducing plastic waste. Plastic is packing…

How Bad Are Plastics, Really?

By Rebecca Altman   01/03/22  
This is hardly the time to talk about plastics is what I think when Dad, hovering over the waste bin at a post-funeral potluck, waves me over, his gesture discreet but emphatic. He has retrieved…

Ground Flare at Mammoth New Exxon SABIC Plastics Plant Likened to a Harmless ‘Barbecue’ in Corporate Video

By Julie Dermansky   12/20/21  
“The normal flare plus the BBQ is on,” Elida Castillo, the program director of Chispa Texas, an environmental advocacy group, wrote to me in a text on December 6. It was an update about a…

Microplastics cause damage to human cells, study shows

By Damian Carrington   12/08/21  
Microplastics cause damage to human cells in the laboratory at the levels known to be eaten by people via their food, a study has found. The harm included cell death and allergic reactions and the…

6 reasons to blame plastic pollution for climate change

By Nina Tsydenovapawan Patil   11/09/21  
What is the link between plastics and hurricanes Sandy and Katrina in the United States, melting glaciers in Antarctica, summer heat waves and erosion of coastal areas in Australia, and other natural disasters hitting us…