Plastic pollution is ubiquitous and growing, but knowing the best way to stop it has largely been a guessing game so far. Now, a study has found that if the world undertook every feasible action to cut plastic pollution, we would still only manage to get rid of 78 per cent of it by 2040, compared with a business-as-usual scenario.
This momentous effort would still leave us with an extra 710 million metric tonnes of pollution. Does that make the whole thing hopeless?
A species of darkling beetle larvae has an enzyme in its gut that helps it gulp down polystyrene.
The avalanche of plastic waste that's rolling over land and sea has inspired numerous potential solutions. Some involve inventing our way out of the mess by creating new kinds of natural materials that will harmlessly degrade if they're thrown away.
Others say it might be quicker to change people's throwaway behavior instead.
Scientists are trying to understand how much plastic humans are pumping into the ocean and how long it sticks around. A study published this week says it may be much more than earlier estimates.
By some measures, the plastic trash that's floating on the surface of the water only accounts for about 1% of the plastic pollution that humans generate.
The largest habitat for life on Earth is the deep ocean. It's home to everything from jellyfish to giant bluefin tuna. But the deep ocean is being invaded by tiny pieces of plastic — plastic that people thought was mostly floating at the surface, and in amounts they never imagined.
Prescription medications play a big role in health. Unfortunately, their containers play a big role in pollution.
Breaking our addiction will also require a major shift in government and corporate policies. It’s time for a little less talk and a little more action. There is so much that can be done to alleviate this explosive plastic fiasco.
The sheer scale of that number is hard to fathom. One statistician writing for The Conversation calculated that, assuming you could fit 31 plastic bottles into a grocery bag (she tested it), the amount of non-recycled plastic waste would fit into roughly 7.2 trillion bags. But even that's hard to imagine. When's the last time you visualized a trillion grocery store bags? So we tried breaking it down a little differently in the hopes that we can somehow convey the true enormity of the problem.
It started so innocently. A kid ordered a soda in a restaurant.
“It came with a plastic straw in it,” Milo Cress recalled. He glared at the straw for a while. “It seemed like such a waste.”
Not only did Cress yank the plastic from his drink, but he also launched a campaign, “Be Straw Free,” targeting all straws as needless pollution.
Campaigns against single-use plastic waste are picking up steam.
Scott DeFife, vice president of government affairs for the Plastics Industry Association, said in an interview that the problem of ocean debris was complex, stemming more from inadequate resources for waste management.
“We, as a nation, are not going to solve our marine debris issues by banning straws in restaurants,” he said.
He said straws had become “the new poster child” for environmentalists.
More states with backing from bag manufacturers and business groups pushing for bills preventing such bans.
Sadly, we recycle only 9% of all the plastic products we ever use. Worse however, is that almost all of these plastic items, which we toss into the trash, are single-use plastics, designed to be used only once before they are thrown into the trash where they will persist in the environment for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years, or more.
t’s clear: The solution to plastic pollution is in our hands.
’m not dismissing individual actions like ordering straw-free drinks at bars, or opting for a reusable water bottle over a cup that’s going in the trash as soon as you’ve used it. I can’t imagine not at least trying to minimize my own plastics footprint, whether it’s lugging home my newly-refilled gallon bottle of washing-up liquid every few months, or buying packaging-free food, clothing and toiletries where possible.
On their own, however, none of these things is enough.
It’s no secret that too many of the plastic products we use end up in the ocean. But you might not be aware of one major source of that pollution: our clothes.
Freedom in the United States has never been freedom to do absolutely anything. So none of us should get too bent out of shape by cities finally choosing measures to reduce municipal solid waste.
Plastic is found in virtually everything these days. Our food and hygiene products are packaged in it. Cars, phones, TVs and computers are made from it. You might even chew on it, in the form of gum! While most plastics are touted as recyclable, the reality is that they are “downcycled.” A plastic milk carton can never be recycled into another carton. It can be made into a lower-quality item, like plastic lumber, which can’t be recycled.
Pollution is now as dense in the northernmost ocean as it is in the Atlantic and Pacific.
If human civilization were to be destroyed and its cities wiped off the map, there would be an easy way for future intelligent life-forms to know when the mid-20th century began: plastic.
The presence of plastic contaminants is so ubiquitous that animals are finding plenty of it and, therefore, they have started to use it as a resource.
Shortly after a study revealed that there could be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050, another troubling report says humans have polluted oceans so much that plastic is now a part of our diet.
Plastic has become ubiquitous in our lives. Plastic bottles, plastic lids, finger-slicing clamshell packaging, plastic Donald Trump bobblehead dolls... So what happens when we throw all this plastic out?
Every person reading this has used a plastic bottle, many of whom likely used one in the past day or week. Plastic, in the recent decades, has become a staple of convenience and a modern lifestyle. The surge in plastic bottle use has accompanied a desire for bottled water as Asia has modernized its lifestyle.
Several recent reports indicate the dire global situation associated with the world's plastic use.
People already know how to deal with plastic waste.
The problem is that it costs time and money, and so far not enough people, or not enough powerful people, have been convinced to invest in that.
Without a doubt, technology will play its role. But there’s a high chance that no matter how smart and creative the ideas to techno-fix the marine litter issue are, they just won’t be enough. To really solve this problem, the elephant in the room has to remain in plain sight: a mindset that treats plastics — a material made to last for years — as a throwaway commodity.
China and Indonesia are likely the top sources of plastic reaching the oceans, accounting for more than a third of the plastic bottles, bags and other detritus washed out to sea...
Exploring plastic waste in our environment.
It’s amazing how quickly people have ditched plastic straws thanks to campaigns to discourage us from using such “pointless plastic”. Yet rarely do we hear about a much more common source of plastic pollution.
As the world produces more protective equipment—and gorges on takeaways—pity the oceans.
A drastic increase in use of masks and gloves, plus a decline in recycling programs, is threatening the health of the seas.
Eliminating single-use plastic products has become a cause célèbre over the past few years, but some in the environmental community complain it's a distraction from the bigger issues. Here's why they're wrong.
COVID-19 is changing how the U.S. disposes of waste. It is also threatening hard-fought victories that restricted or eliminated single-use disposable items, especially plastic, in cities and towns across the nation.
Just telling people to give up convenient and affordable products and services isn't enough. Sure, some people will (and do) give up plastics, live a zero-waste life and even become advocates but fundamental change requires bigger ideas.
Our oceans are threatened by three major challenges: climate change, overfishing and pollution. Plastic pollution is of growing concern, and has gained international attention from governments, media and large sections of the public, partly fuelled by last year’s BBC documentary Blue Planet II and its images of sperm whales and seabirds entangled or ingesting plastic debris.
Despite the attention plastic pollution has received, some scientists think this is the least important of the major marine threats, and that climate change and fisheries need more urgent attention.
The globe is covered in plastic waste. The "to-go" coffee culture is a big part of this problem. Take Starbucks, for example. Starbucks uses more than 8,000 paper cups a minute, which adds up to more than four billion a year. 1.6 million trees are harvested every year for all of those single-use cups. Since these cups are lined with plastic, they are not really recyclable ─ only four U.S. cities even accept Starbucks paper cups for recycling. Most Starbucks paper cups (even those accepted for recycling) end up in the trash.
To be disposed of, though, plastic waste must be collected. In Europe, America and other developed places, virtually all of it is. To eliminate marine litter in particular, more rubbish needs to be picked in the leaky Asian countries.
China’s anti-pollution drive may bring about improvements, although the country now pays more attention to filthy air and water, which are more pressing concerns. Indonesia has launched its own National Action Plan on marine plastic. The other big polluters are eyeing similar measures. What happens there over the next few decades will matter more than any number of Western plastic-bag bans.
Look at the items on your plastic inventory list and ask yourself, "What can I replace the plastic with?"
Scientists are trying to accelerate evolution to make plastics rot. A tiny new organism is showing them how.
With the help of sunlight, plastics in the ocean dissolve into carbon that some microbes will turn into food.
As valuable as they can be, recycling and clean-ups are not the answer. Source reduction is the key to sparing the environment—including ourselves—from further plastic poisoning. Enter the Plastic Pollution Coalition to get that message into our thick heads.
Project Kaisei is a non-profit organization based in San Francisco and Hong Kong, established to increase the understanding and the scale of marine debris, its impact on our ocean environment, and how we can introduce solutions for both prevention and clean-up.
Plastic Free July® is a global movement that helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution – so we can have cleaner streets, oceans, and beautiful communities. Will you be part of Plastic Free July by choosing to refuse single-use plastics?
Stop the plastic soup tsunami as soon as possible! If we do not achieve this, we are leaving future generations with a terrible plastic plague. We are a ‘single issue’ environmental organization that is concerned with one thing: stopping plastic pollution at its source.
We're changing lives through ethical trade and addressing the root cause of #oceanplastic Join us to reduce plastic pollution & poverty in developing countries.
StrawFree.org is an organization based in southern California. We are committed to promoting a plastic-free lifestyle through the elimination of single-use plastic straws.
Our goal is to build awareness about the impacts of plastic straws on the environment through educational materials, outreach to businesses, and through the development of alternative solutions including bamboo straws.
This is our main data entry on plastics, with a particular focus on its pollution of the environment.