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.

CREDIT: WWF.ORG.AU

CURRENT NEWS

KEY RESOURCES

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…

Plastic Pollution

03/06/20
The impact of plastic pollution on our oceans and what we can do about it.

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…

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

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

By Joseph Winters  Photo: David Tipling , Getty Images   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  Photo: Alex Aves   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  Photo: Basri Marzuki , Getty Images   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  Photo: Katie Martin / The Atlantic; Getty   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  Photo: Drew Angerer , Getty Images   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  Photo: Ben Lecomte   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  Photo: Torrance Daily Breeze , Getty Images   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  Photo: Mehdi Fedouach/AFP via Getty Images   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  Photo: Reuters/Sergio Moraes   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.

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

By Laura Parker  Photo: Alexander Stein, Getty Images   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  Photo: Yunaidi Joepoet/Moment via Getty Images   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…

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

By Evan Bush  Photo: Pcess609 / Getty Images   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  Photo: David Kelly   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  Photo: Ben Curtis/AP   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  Photo: David Kelly   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  Photo: 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  Photo: Reuters/Hemanshi Kamani   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  Photo: Hemanshi Kamani, Reuters   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  Photo: Matthew Porter   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  Photo: 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  Photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images   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  Photo: Shutterstock.com   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…

Maine Will Make Companies Pay for Recycling. Here’s How It Works.

By Winston Choi-Schagrin  Photo: Leon Werdinger/Alamy   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.

Biden Can Fight Plastic Pollution With These 8 Actions

By Katherine Martinko  Photo by Florian Roden   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…

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…

Plastic is the enemy of the environment and fighting climate change

By Katherine Allison  Photo by Getty Images   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.

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…

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…

Big Plastic Spends Millions of Dollars to Lie to You About Recycling

By Zulie Rane  Photo by Anna Shvets   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…
npr

How Big Oil Misled The Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled

By Laura Sullivan  Photo: Laura Sullivan , npr   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…

Why Bioplastics Will Not Solve the World’s Plastics Problem

By Jim Robbins  Photo by Martin Bernetti   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…

Big Oil Is in Trouble. Its Plan: Flood Africa With Plastic.

By Hiroko Tabuchi, Michael Corkery and Carlos Mureithi  Photo: Khadija M. Farah for The New York Times   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…

Wait, How Much Microplastic Is Swirling in the Atlantic?

By Matt Simon  Photo by Getty Images   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.

Waste plastic cascade could triple in 20 years

By Tim Radford  Photo: Antoine GIRET on Unsplash   07/30/20  
In a throwaway world, some discards are forever. New research measures the crisis of the world’s waste plastic.
CNN

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…

A threat from above: Plastic rains down on US National Parks and Wilderness areas

By Kate S. Petersen  Photo by Brian Bienkowski   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…

Microplastic pollution in oceans vastly underestimated – study

By Damian Carrington  Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP via Getty Images   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...

The end of plastic? New plant-based bottles will degrade in a year

By Jillian Ambrose  Photo by Diego Azubel   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.

Hoovering the ocean

By Hugo Kugiya  Photo: Sandy Huffaker for The Washington Post)   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)
CNN

Coronavirus is causing a flurry of plastic waste. Campaigners fear it may be permanent

By Rob Picheta  Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty   05/04/20  
All of the defining images of the coronavirus pandemic seem to feature one thing: plastic.

‘Microplastic Hot Spots’ Are Tainting Deep-Sea Ecosystems

By Matt simon  Photo by Juan Carlos Munoz   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…

Coronavirus Plastic Waste Polluting the Environment

By Nikolia Apostolou  Photo: Vincenzo Lombardo / Getty Images   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,...