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Wed Mar 31, 2021, 03:01 AM

Plastic Is Creating an Environmental Justice Crisis

There’s growing awareness that plastics are an environmental disaster for marine and terrestrial ecosystems alike. A new United Nations report published Tuesday shows they’re also a huge problem for human beings—and that they don’t affect us all equally.

The world is producing more plastic than ever before as oil and gas firms focus on expanding plastic production in an attempt to stay in business. If the upward trend continues, plastic will account for 20% of the world’s oil consumption by 2050.

According to the new analysis, the world produced more than 9 billion tons of new plastic from 1950 to 2015. Even more shockingly, more than 50% of all plastic in history was created in the last 18 years. At this rate of growth, the world is on track produce 38 tons of plastic by 2025, which is enough to cover every foot of coastline on Earth with a layer of 100 plastic bags. Yet plastic production and pollution remain out of sight and out of mind in high-income communities, with the worst impacts foisted on people already suffering.

The study, released by the United Nations Environment Program and the environmental justice nonprofit Azul, shows that problems with plastic start long before it’s thrown away. Every aspect of plastics’ life cycle—from the extraction of raw materials and production to distribution and disposal—are threatening human health. At every stage, the report also explains, economically and socially disadvantaged groups, ”including women, children, the poor, migrants and internally displaced people, indigenous peoples, and persons with disabilities,” are the most negatively affected.

“Plastic pollution is a social justice issue,”Marce Gutiérrez-Graudiņš, executive director of Azul and co-author of the study, said in a statement. “Current efforts, limited to managing and decreasing plastic pollution, are inadequate to address the whole scope of problems plastic creates, especially the disparate impacts on communities affected by the harmful effects of plastic at every point from production to waste.”

Ninety-nine percent of plastic is made from oil and gas. Even before drilling starts, this is often an environmental justice problem, the report notes. Many oil and gas projects are approved to operation on Indigenous land from North America to Ecuador to Sudan despite a lack of consente. And when extraction begins, mountains of research shows that poor communities, often of color, are most likely to be affected by the local air pollution, as well as by the climate crisis which it perpetuates.


Read more: https://earther.gizmodo.com/plastic-is-creating-an-environmental-justice-crisis-1846584041

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Reply Plastic Is Creating an Environmental Justice Crisis (Original post)
Rhiannon12866 Mar 31 OP
progree Mar 31 #1
Rhiannon12866 Mar 31 #2
progree Mar 31 #3
mdbl Mar 31 #4
pandr32 Mar 31 #5

Response to Rhiannon12866 (Original post)

Wed Mar 31, 2021, 04:02 AM

1. For convenience of reference, a couple of recent E&E posts on plastics

(#1#)mahatmakanejeeves' Opinion: My team found 2,000 plastic bags inside a dead camel
https://www.democraticunderground.com/1127144038



(#2#)Judi Lynn's Islands of plastic floating off the coasts of Central America
https://www.democraticunderground.com/1127144166



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Response to progree (Reply #1)

Wed Mar 31, 2021, 04:06 AM

2. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO) - Plastics

https://www.democraticunderground.com/1127143981

Plastic is in everything, from the clothes we wear to the water we drink. John Oliver explains how plastics are harming the planet, why recycling isn’t the solution you think it is, and why fixing the problem will be up to not just consumers, but corporations and policymakers.


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Response to Rhiannon12866 (Original post)

Wed Mar 31, 2021, 04:30 AM

3. Banning plastic bags in grocery stores etc. but the alternatives are worse

Excerpts (for convenience of reference )

Are plastic bag bans garbage?, NPR, 4/9/19
https://www.mprnews.org/story/2019/04/09/are-plastic-bag-bans-garbage

PAPER BAGS -- Plastic haters, it's time to brace yourselves. A bunch of studies find that paper bags are actually worse for the environment. They require cutting down and processing trees, which involves lots of water, toxic chemicals, fuel and heavy machinery. While paper is biodegradable and avoids some of the problems of plastic, Taylor says, the huge increase of paper, together with the uptick in [store-bought] plastic trash bags, means banning plastic shopping bags increases greenhouse gas emissions. That said, these bans do reduce nonbiodegradable litter.

TOTE BAGS - A 2011 study by the U.K. government found a person would have to reuse their cotton tote bag 131 times before it was better for climate change than using a plastic grocery bag once. The Danish government recently did a study that took into account environmental impacts beyond simply greenhouse gas emissions, including water use, damage to ecosystems and air pollution. These factors make cloth bags even worse. They estimate you would have to use an organic cotton bag 20,000 times more than a plastic grocery bag to make using it better for the environment.

That said, the Danish government's estimate doesn't take into account the effects of bags littering land and sea, where plastic is clearly the worst offender.

The most environment-friendly way to carry groceries is to use the same bag over and over again. According to the Danish study, the best reusable ones are made from polyester or plastics like polypropylene. Those still have to be used dozens and dozens of times to be greener than plastic grocery bags, which have the smallest carbon footprint for a single use.

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Response to Rhiannon12866 (Original post)

Wed Mar 31, 2021, 05:49 AM

4. Our local Publix stores have recycle bins at the entrances

I use them to recycle all plastic bags and plastic packaging. I didn't see anything about recycling in the article. I only hope it helps on some level.

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Response to mdbl (Reply #4)

Wed Mar 31, 2021, 07:04 AM

5. From what I am learning--plastic recycling is a myth

The numbers we see for recycling plastic include the plastic for recycling we ship away because it is no longer cost productive to recycle here. Some of that gets dumped right in the ocean and some gets forced on other countries and it winds up in giant piles and often they dump it just to be rid of it. It was getting recycled for a while, but then the new plastic pellets are so cheap no-one wants to buy recycled plastic. Many places were burning it--another pollution and health problem.
It is no longer collected for recycling where we live--which may be better.

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