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

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…

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

The Ocean Cleanup successfully catches plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

By The Ocean Cleanup   10/02/19  
Consumer goods giant Unilever vowed to halve the amount of new plastic it uses over the next five years, by shifting to more recyclable and alternative materials and refillable options to meet consumer demand for…

‘The Ocean Cleanup’ ship sweeps first Pacific plastic

By Charlotte Van Ouwerkerk  Photo by Josh Edelson   10/02/19  
A special ship designed to clean the oceans has harvested its first plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch since setting sail from San Francisco last month, its Dutch inventor said Wednesday.

How industry ‘environmental’ group helped foil California’s plastics crackdown

By Dustin Gardiner   10/01/19  
SACRAMENTO — State lawmakers were on the verge of passing landmark bills to combat plastic pollution when a new advocacy group with a seemingly innocuous name arrived.

How industry ‘environmental’ group helped foil California’s plastics crackdown

By Dustin Gardiner  Photo: Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle   10/01/19  
State lawmakers were on the verge of passing landmark bills to combat plastic pollution when a new advocacy group with a seemingly innocuous name arrived.

Billionaire-backed foundation contributes $300M to new plastics initiative

By Katie Pyzyk   09/27/19  
The Minderoo Foundation, a philanthropic group founded by Australian billionaire Andrew Forrest, is contributing $300 million to a new plastic waste initiative called Sea the Future. The goal is to raise $20 billion annually for…

Major Cruise Line to Abandon Plastic Water Bottles

By Elaine Glusac   09/25/19  
Norwegian Cruise Line, the world’s third-biggest cruise company, aims to switch its fleet to paper-based water cartons by 2020.

Ireland to Reduce Waste by Cutting out All Single-Use Plastic

09/17/19  
Ireland is ready to say goodbye to plastic cutlery, plastic balloon sticks and grocery items wrapped in plastic as a way to drastically reduce the amount...

California lawmakers fail to pass sweeping plastic pollution plan

By Paul Rogers  Photo: Mindy Schauer   09/14/19  
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…
DW

Alarming level of plastic in children’s bodies, German study shows

By Wesley Rahn   09/14/19  
A study by the German Environment Ministry has found almost all children tested have traces of plastic byproducts in their bodies. Some of the chemicals found could affect health and development.

Introducing: The #plasticchallenge

09/13/19  
Judith Enck, founder of Beyond Plastics and former EPA Region 2 administrator, helps us sort through all the types of plastics in our lives, and understand exactly how they are making an impact on climate…

Troy council unanimously passes Plastic Free Hudson River Act

By Michael Gwizdala   09/06/19  
The Troy City Council unanimously passed the Plastic Free Hudson River Act at Thursday night's council meeting.

Dow Wants to Turn Piles of Plastic Trash Into Oil

By Ellen Proper   08/29/19  
Dow Inc. is partnering with the Dutch developer of a method for turning plastic trash back into oil as the global chemical powerhouse seeks to expand recycling amid rising alarm over pollution.

Bali fights back as tons of floating plastic threaten to spoil once-pristine paradise

08/26/19  
“If we in Bali can set an example so all of Indonesia and other countries stopped using plastic bags too, that would be very good."...

This is what it’s like to swim through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

08/23/19  
Long-distance swimmer Ben Lecomte is helping collect scientific samples in a vortex of ocean plastic....

How the plastic bottle went from miracle container to hated garbage

By Laura Proper   08/23/19  
The moment the modern plastic beverage bottle changed the world’s drinking habits is difficult to pinpoint. The day New York supermodels began carrying tall bottles of Evian water as an accessory on fashion show catwalks…

How plastics contribute to climate change

By Brooke Bauman   08/20/19  
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…

Green Turtles Are Mistaking Plastic for the Sea Grass They Normally Eat

08/09/19  
Endangered green turtles are having a problem. They're mistaking plastic pollution for the seaweed they survive on, according to new research from the University of Exeter...

Tired of plastic junk? California’s recycling bills propose dramatic new rules

By Rachel Becker   08/08/19  
With plastic packaging heading to landfills and recycling centers shutting down, California lawmakers use a trio of bills to take aim at the stuttering recycling economy.

San Francisco International Airport banning plastic bottle sales

08/04/19  
The San Francisco International Airport, one of the largest airports in the country, announced it will ban the sale of single-use plastic water bottles later this month....

Freshwater is getting neglected when it comes to plastic pollution research

08/02/19  
Plastic pollution in lakes and rivers is on the research back burner—that's a problem.That's according to a new study in the journal Water, Air, and Soil Pollution that tallies research on plastics in the oceans…

This Irish teenager may have a solution for a plastic-free ocean

08/02/19  
A teenage boy from Ireland may have found a way to rescue our oceans from plastic pollution....

Trump does not get the point of plastic straw bans. Pollution experts explain.

By Dino Grandioni  Photo: AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File   07/23/19  
President Trump does not understand why plastic straws have become the boogeyman of some businesses and Democratic-led cities that have sought to ban their use entirely. But pollution experts say there's a reason straws are…

The plastic industry’s fight to keep polluting the world

07/20/19  
Pushes to “recycle” plastics are one element of a massive industry-led effort to suppress meaningful efforts to reduce plastic waste....

The seriously scary problem with the black plastic all around us

07/17/19  
It’s one of the biggest challenges facing recycling today—but researchers have discovered a breakthrough technique that turns it into a precious commodity. ...

The sticky problem of plastic wrap

By Sarah Gibbens   07/12/19  
It may save your sandwich, but plastic wrap pollutes the planet. Is there a better solution?

Beverage Companies Embrace Recycling, Until It Costs Them

By Michael Corkery  Photo: Chang W. Lee   07/05/19  
They have pledged to help fix U.S. recycling, but for decades the companies have fought against “bottle bills,” which result in more bottles and cans being recycled but are costly for the industry.

The Earth’s climate is paying for our addiction to plastic

By Carroll Muffett   06/25/19  
Every stage of the plastic lifecycle releases harmful carbon emissions into the atmosphere, contributing to global heating

This house was built using 600,000 recycled plastic bottles

By Brett Ruskin   06/25/19  
This week, the team from JD Composites unveiled its first home in Meteghan River on Nova Scotia's southwest shore. It has walls made with 15-centimetre thick plastic slabs. More than 600,000 recycled plastic bottles were…

Humans have made 8.3bn tons of plastic since 1950. This is the illustrated story of where it’s gone

By Susie Cagle   06/24/19  
Until recently we didn’t know how much plastic was piling up around us. When we found out, the picture wasn’t pretty

Maine, Vermont governors sign plastic bag bans on same day

By Cole Rosengren  Photo: torange.biz   06/18/19  
Following passage of the nation's first two statewide bans on polystyrene foam containers — in Maine and Maryland — 2019 may well become an inflection point for plastics policy.

Maine and Vermont governors sign plastic bag bans on same day

By Cole Rosengren   06/18/19  
Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill Monday (LD 1532) that will ban single-use plastic bags across the state by April 22, 2020. Reusable plastic and paper bags will be permitted for at least $0.05…

You’re Likely Inhaling 11 Tiny Bits of Plastic Per Hour

By Erica Cirino   06/17/19  
A new study suggests that our lungs are under siege in our own homes.

Where does your plastic go? Global investigation reveals America’s dirty secret

By Bennett Murray   06/17/19  
What happens to your plastic after you drop it in a recycling bin?

G-20 urges ‘voluntary action’ on marine plastic crisis but fails to agree on common approach

By Simon Denyer   06/16/19  
Environment ministers from the Group of 20 on Sunday recognized an urgent need to tackle the marine plastic litter that’s choking the world’s oceans, but failed to agree on concrete measures or targets to phase…

New California Bill Could Revolutionize How the U.S. Tackles Plastic Pollution

By Tara Lohan  Photo: Bo Eide, public domain   06/14/19  
A sweeping “circular economy” bill in the California legislature aims to drastically reduce plastic waste and boost domestic recycling.

Analysis: global plastics boom fueled 2018 CO2 emissions rise

By Lauri Myllyvirta   06/14/19  
The world added more non-fossil power last year than ever before, but energy demand rose by even more
BBC

A simple online system that could end plastic pollution

By Justin Calderon   06/13/19  
Poorer communities in the developing world bear the brunt of plastic pollution. Could a new digital payment system spark a clean-up revolution?

Canada to Announce Ban on Single Use Plastics

06/10/19  
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will announce a plan to ban single use plastics by 2021 at a press conference in Montreal Monday, the Associated Press reports.NoneAn announcement on specific prohibited items will wait until…

Delta Does (and Does Not) Ditch Plastic; Why It’s All Good

By Tina Casey   05/24/19  
As the urgency of climate action comes into sharper focus, airlines have found themselves on the front lines of the battle over carbon emissions. They have also become a bellwether for innovative solutions.

‘It’s Raining Plastic’: Researchers Find Microscopic Fibers in Colorado Rain Samples

05/23/19  
By Brett WaltonWhen Greg Wetherbee sat in front of the microscope recently, he was looking for fragments of metals or coal, particles that might indicate the source of airborne nitrogen pollution in Rocky Mountain National…

Scientists find 414 million pieces of plastic debris on remote islands. That’s even worse than it sounds.

By Yasemin Saplakoglu   05/21/19  
The amount of plastic pollution previously thought to exist around the world may be a dramatic underestimate — because the vast majority of plastic pollution may actually be below the surface.

Plastics Threaten Global Climate at a Massive Scale During Each Point of Lifecycle, Report Finds

05/17/19  
Plastic pollution across the globe is suffocating our planet and driving Earth toward catastrophic climatic conditions if not curbed significantly and immediately, according to a new report by the Center for International Environmental Law (CEIL).…

From making it to managing it, plastic is a major contributor to climate change

05/15/19  
Plastic is polluting oceans, freshwater lakes and rivers, food and us — but it's also a major contributor to global climate change, warns a new report. Scientists, policymakers and consumers are increasingly aware of the…

Are Plastic, Paper Or Reusable Bags Better For The Environment?

By Kate Bratskeir   05/14/19  
If you bring a tote bag to the grocery store, you’re not necessarily saving the planet.

Baby fish have started eating plastic. We haven’t yet seen the consequences

By Laura Parker   05/01/19  
Newborn fish are mistaking tiny bits of trash for food. If they die, there’ll be fewer big fish—and that could rattle the food chain.

One Thing You Can Do: Know Your Plastics

By Eduardo Garcia and Henry Fountain   04/24/19  
Ever notice those recycling symbols, the triangles with the numbers inside, on plastic packaging and containers? I always assumed they meant the plastic was recyclable. But that’s not necessarily the case.

4 Ways to Cut Plastic’s Growing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

By Phil McKenna   04/15/19  
Every stage of plastic's life cycle, from fossil fuel extraction to disposal, produces greenhouse gases. A new study looked at ways to lower the toll.

Plastic Bags, or Paper? Here’s What to Consider When You Hit the Grocery Store

By Brad Plumer   03/29/19  
The decision by New York State to ban single-use plastic bags from retail stores makes it a good time to revisit everyone’s favorite environmental quandary: paper or plastic?

Hawaii bills push 1st state ban on plastics in restaurants

By Audrey McAvoy   03/19/19  
Hawaii would be the first state in the U.S. to ban most plastics at restaurants under legislation that aims to cut down on waste that pollutes the ocean.

As Costs Skyrocket, More U.S. Cities Stop Recycling

By Michael Corkery  Photo: Scott McIntyre for The New York Times   03/16/19  
Recycling, for decades an almost reflexive effort by American households and businesses to reduce waste and help the environment, is collapsing in many parts of the country.