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.


Inside the East Palestine Disaster: A Wake Up Call To Ban Toxic Vinyl Chloride & Go Beyond Plastics

Five of the train cars were carrying vinyl chloride, a known human carcinogen that is used to create polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic. The railroad and state officials drained this toxic chemical into a ditch and…
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There are 21,000 pieces of plastic in the ocean for each person on Earth

By Michael Birnbaum 03/08/23
A new study found far more plastic in global oceans than previously believed — and the amount is doubling every six years....
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Microplastics are polluting the ocean at a shocking rate

By Matt Simon 03/08/23
Some 11 billion pounds of plastic particles are blanketing the surface alone. But a new study points to hope—if countries act now....
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Less plastic or more recycling – nations split ahead of treaty talks

By Joe Lo 02/22/23
Ahead of talks on a new plastics treaty, nations are split over whether to target reductions in the amount of plastic that is produced or just to try and stop it from polluting land and…
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The plastic train wreck should be a wake-up call

Thanks to a mountain of deadlines a mile high, I haven't yet been able to focus as much attention on the East Palestine train derailment as I'd like, but two things were very clear to…
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The Coming Chemical Boom

Shale gas fueled a boom in the drilling industry and has provided cheaper fuel, displacing dirtier coal to generate electricity. It’s also feeding a spinoff industry in chemicals. Shell is building a multi-billion-dollar petrochemical plant…
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Join the Reuse Revolution

10 simple steps you can take to move closer to zero waste and reduce single-use plastic pollution
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Derailed train carried chemical used to make ‘the worst’ of the plastics

By James Bruggers 02/08/23
Scientists say PVC is trouble for people and the environment throughout its lifecycle, from manufacturing to disposal, and is almost never recycled.
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Home Compostable Plastics Are Too Good to Be True

By Katherine Martinko 01/23/23
Composting is a bit like alchemy. You put food scraps into a bin and, with the help of some busy microorganisms and insects, you end up with rich, usable soil. Converting trash to treasure is…
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‘Advanced’ Recycling of Plastic Using High Heat and Chemicals Is Costly and Environmentally Problematic, A New Government Study Finds

By James Bruggers 01/19/23
The plastics industry’s quest to solve the problem of plastic waste through so-called “advanced” recycling—using chemical additives and sometimes extremely high heat to turn waste back into new plastics—is costly and comes with significant environmental…
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Tonnes Of Airborne Microplastics Drop Onto Cities Every Year

By Laurie Winkless 12/15/22
Whether you’re talking about the environment or news headlines, it’s becoming clear that microplastics are everywhere. These three stories: “Synthetic fibers discovered in Antarctic sea ice”, “Blue whales may ingest 10 mil. pieces of microplastic…
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How Bad Are Microplastics? An Expert Weighs In.

By Julia Rothman 12/09/22
A recent study revealed that each of us might be.....
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A Poison Like No Other: How Microplastics Corrupted Our Planet and Our Bodies Hardcover – October 27, 2022

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

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

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

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

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?

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

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

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

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

BYOB – Bring Your Own Bag

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

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

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

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

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

Resources, education, and solutions all about plastic.

How plastics contribute to climate change

They generate heat-trapping gases at every stage of their life cycle.

Mapping the Flow of the World’s Plastic Waste

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

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

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

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

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…


For the First Time, Nations Band Together in a Move Toward Ending Plastics Pollution – Inside Climate News

By James Bruggers   03/03/22  
A United Nations gathering in Kenya on Wednesday set the world on track to forge for the first time a legally binding global agreement to curb plastic pollution. The language in a resolution adopted, to...
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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…
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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…
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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…
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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…
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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…
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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…
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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…
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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…
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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…
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Baby Poop Is Loaded With Microplastics

By Matt Simon   09/22/21  
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…
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Maine Will Make Companies Pay for Recycling. Here’s How It Works.

By Winston Choi-Schagrin   07/21/21  
Recycling, that feel-good moment when people put their paper and plastic in special bins, was a headache for municipal governments even in good times. And, only a small amount was actually getting recycled.
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Countries Tried to Curb Trade in Plastic Waste. The U.S. Is Shipping More.

By Hiroko Tabuchi and Others   03/12/21  
When more than 180 nations agreed last year to place strict limits on exports of plastic waste from richer countries to poorer ones, the move was seen as a major victory in the fight against…
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Biden Can Fight Plastic Pollution With These 8 Actions

By Katherine Martinko   03/03/21  
A coalition of prominent environmental groups hopes that the new United States president will take serious action on curbing plastic production. While plastic serves a purpose in certain situations (like medical procedures, food handling, high-tech…
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Coca-cola, PepsiCo and nestlé named top plastic polluters for third consecutive year

By Nina Azzarello   12/03/20  
The coca-cola company, PepsiCo and nestlé have been ranked as the world’s top plastic polluters for the 3rd consecutive year according to the report ‘branded vol III: demanding corporate accountability for plastic pollution’ published by…
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Plastic is the enemy of the environment and fighting climate change

By Katherine Allison   10/13/20  
It is estimated that the harm plastic production pushes onto the environment costs at least $40 billion a year, including polluted air, water and land.
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Our plastic planet

By Peter Dykstra   09/25/20  
It's always a challenge to find good news on the climate and environment beat. And we all desperately need a little more of the upbeat stuff right now. So I apologize in advance for the…
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More Talk and No Action on Chemical Recycling

By Lloyd Alter   09/15/20  
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) has long been a bête noire of Treehugger, ever since they tried to get the LEED green building certification system banned because it tried to limit the use of plastics…
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Big Plastic Spends Millions of Dollars to Lie to You About Recycling

By Zulie Rane   09/14/20  
This launched the $50-million-a-year campaign to rebrand plastic. The 1980s and 1990s featured heartwarming, sweet videos with kids talking about how plastic wasn’t trash — it was full of possibility! Plastic executives were photographed grinning…
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How Big Oil Misled The Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled

By Laura Sullivan   09/11/20  
Laura Leebrick, a manager at Rogue Disposal & Recycling in southern Oregon, is standing on the end of its landfill watching an avalanche of plastic trash pour out of a semitrailer: containers, bags, packaging, strawberry…
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Why Bioplastics Will Not Solve the World’s Plastics Problem

By Jim Robbins   08/31/20  
Bioplastics are being touted by industry marketers as the solution to plastics pollution. But the idea that bottles and packaging made of plant-based material can simply be discarded and then break down and disappear is…
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Big Oil Is in Trouble. Its Plan: Flood Africa With Plastic.

By Hiroko Tabuchi, Michael Corkery and Carlos Mureithi   08/30/20  
Confronting a climate crisis that threatens the fossil fuel industry, oil companies are racing to make more plastic. But they face two problems: Many markets are already awash with plastic, and few countries are willing…
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Wait, How Much Microplastic Is Swirling in the Atlantic?

By Matt Simon   08/18/20  
Scientists calculate that the top 200 meters of ocean alone contains up to 21 million metric tons of plastic. And that wasn't even counting microfibers.
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Waste plastic cascade could triple in 20 years

By Tim Radford   07/30/20  
In a throwaway world, some discards are forever. New research measures the crisis of the world’s waste plastic.
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The Plastic Free July challenge is here to help you rid your life of single-use plastic waste

By Joe Bagliere   07/05/20  
Unlike dance battles and dangerous dares, here's a "challenge" just about anyone can get behind. The Australia-based Plastic Free Foundation is once again recruiting participants to take the Plastic Free July challenge -- that is…
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A threat from above: Plastic rains down on US National Parks and Wilderness areas

By Kate S. Petersen   06/12/20  
The study is the first to calculate rates of microplastic pollution from the atmosphere onto American protected areas and adds to a growing body of research suggesting that microplastics are traveling long distances in the…
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Microplastic pollution in oceans vastly underestimated – study

By Damian Carrington   05/22/20  
The abundance of microplastic pollution in the oceans is likely to have been vastly underestimated, according to research that suggests there are at least double the...
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The end of plastic? New plant-based bottles will degrade in a year

By Jillian Ambrose   05/16/20  
Beer and soft drinks could soon be sipped from “all-plant” bottles under new plans to turn sustainably grown crops into plastic in partnership with major beverage makers.
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Hoovering the ocean

By Hugo Kugiya   05/13/20  
FRED, a solar-powered catamaran built by the organization Clear Blue Sea, retrieves marked water bottles during a test run in Mission Bay in San Diego. (Sandy Huffaker for The Washington Post)
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Coronavirus is causing a flurry of plastic waste. Campaigners fear it may be permanent

By Rob Picheta   05/04/20  
All of the defining images of the coronavirus pandemic seem to feature one thing: plastic.
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‘Microplastic Hot Spots’ Are Tainting Deep-Sea Ecosystems

By Matt simon   04/30/20  
OFF THE COASTS of Corsica and Sardinia in the Mediterranean Sea swirls an omnipresent yet vanishingly small menace: microplastics. By this point, it comes as no surprise to scientists that they would find the tiny…
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Coronavirus Plastic Waste Polluting the Environment

By Nikolia Apostolou   04/25/20  
By Nikolia ApostolouOver a month into the lockdown and the usually bustling streets of Kalamata, a Greek city southwest of Athens traditionally known for its olives,...
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Plastic Wars

By Willy Kurniawan   03/31/20  
With the plastic industry expanding like never before and the crisis of ocean pollution growing, FRONTLINE and NPR investigate the fight over the future of plastics.
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Plastics Industry Insiders Reveal the Truth About Recycling

By Patrice Taddonio   03/31/20  
It was the late 1980s, and the plastics industry was under fire. Facing heightened public concern about ever-increasing amounts of garbage, the image of plastics was falling dramatically. State and local officials across the country…
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Don’t Let This Pandemic Ruin the Fight Against Single-Use Plastics

By Katherine Martinko   03/26/20  
Listen to scientists, not industry lobbyists, and just keep cleaning. The coronavirus has triggered some unexpected environmental benefits in recent days.
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How plastic can be recycled to build roads

Engineer Toby McCartney has found a way to mix recycled plastic in with asphalt to make new roads.
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Company Is Using Plastic Bottles To Make Roads That Last 10x Longer Than Asphalt

The creation of plastic in 1907 marks an important point in mankind and the history of Earth. It is the year in which we created one of the most durable, but also environmentally harmful materials…
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Take One Last Look at the (Many) Plastic Bags of New York

By Annalisa Quinn   02/28/20  
With a new state ban going into effect, we bid farewell to the purple flower, the smiley face and the THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU designs that have adorned city life for decades.
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Coke and Pepsi sued for creating a plastic pollution ‘nuisance’

By Erin McCormick   02/27/20  
Coke, Pepsi, Nestlé and other large companies are being sued by a California environmental group for creating a plastic pollution “nuisance” and misleading consumers about the recyclability of plastic.
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Most plastics in our recycling bins aren’t getting recycled, new report finds

By Starre Vartan   02/24/20  
Most recycling programs accept plastics labelled 1 through 7, but in the vast majority of cases, only #1 (PET) and #2 (HDPE) actually get recycled, a new report via Greenpeace has found.
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More Plastic Is On the Way: What It Means for Climate Change

By Renee Cho   02/20/20  
With the recent fracking boom causing low gas prices, fossil fuel companies are seeking other ways to bolster their profits — by making more plastic. Just as the world is starting to address its enormous…
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Amercans dump 100 plastic bottles in nature each year

By Sergio Peçanha   02/19/20  
The plastic that wound up not recycled or in landfills in 2017 added up to about two pounds per person, or the equivalent of 100 plastic bottles, according to a calculation by Jan Dell, an…
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NY’s plastic bag ban is coming: Here’s what to know about the stores, the charges and the changes

By Sarah Taddeo and Chad Arnold   02/14/20  
As New York’s single-use plastic bag ban takes effect in grocery stores across the state, smaller convenience and retail locations are gearing up for a huge hit to their bottom lines — and a habit…
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Meet America’s new superpolluters: Plastic plants

By Benjamin Storrow   01/21/20  
The Sunshine Project, a gargantuan petrochemical complex planned on 2,500 acres along the Mississippi River south of Baton Rouge, La., will be one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters in America when it becomes fully…
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China Says It Will Ban Plastics That Pollute Its Land and Water

By Chris Buckley   01/20/20  
Though likely to be welcomed by many Chinese who worry about pollution, the measures could be a hard sell for a society used to convenience. By Chris Buckley
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Plastic bags have lobbyists. They’re winning.

By Samantha Maldonado, Bruce Ritchie and Debra Kahn   01/20/20  
Eight states ban the bag, but nearly twice as many have laws protecting them.
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Activists Find Evidence of Formosa Plant in Texas Still Releasing Plastic Pollution Despite $50 Million Settlement

By Julie Dermansky   01/18/20  
Wilson described the occasion as “day one of the zero discharge settlement.” As of that date, Formosa could be fined up to $15,000 a day if it were found still discharging nurdles. That would put…
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Plastic additive linked to excessive reproductive abnormalities

By Stephanie Dutchen   01/10/20  
New findings shed light as to how DEHP, a common chemical in plastic, may impact human reproductive health....
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New Citizen Science Project Asks: Is It Snowing Plastics?

By Marie Denoia Aronsohn   12/20/19  
The PlastiX-Snow project will track microplastics that contaminate Earth’s most remote and pristine locations. ...
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