A Global Plastic Trash Crisis Is Looming
Plastic is deeply ingrained into the fabric of our society. While it’s been a game changer in terms of facilitating medical, technological and safety advances, plastic has also become a major problem for the planet as waste continues to accumulate.
Plastic is a pervasive part of everyday life, from bagging groceries and ordering takeout to buying hygiene or cosmetic products, toys for your kids, a soda from the vending machine, and on and on. An estimated 40 percent of plastic produced is packaging that’s discarded after just one use.
Only 9 percent of the 6.3 billion tons of plastic waste generated since the 1950s was recycled. The other 91 percent ended up in landfills, was abandoned in the natural environment or was incinerated.
Plastic’s ubiquitous presence in our lives is having detrimental effects on the environment. Eight million metric tons of plastic enters the oceans every year, according to the Ocean Conservancy, affecting nearly 700 species. That’s on top of an estimated 150 million metric tons already in marine environments.
The U.S. ranks among the top 20 countries mismanaging its plastic waste. How is the plastic industry responding to these concerns? Is there a more sustainable solution?
What are the human health and environmental impacts of plastic? What are microplastics and how do they enter the human food chain?
How can we change the status quo for single-use plastics? Do plastic straw and bag bans have a sizable impact in limiting plastic waste?
Are you an environmentally conscious consumer? What else can be done to lessen the burden of plastic in our environment?
- Rachel Meidl, L.P.D., CHMM, fellow in energy and environment at the Baker Institute and author of the issue brief, "Plastic Waste Management: Are We on the Right Path to Sustainability?"
- Andrew Dobbs, Central Texas program director and legislative director for the Texas Campaign for the Environment
- Jen Ronk, sustainability manager for Dow Chemical, a founding member of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste
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This interview was recorded on Thrusday, May 9.