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Earth Day 2018 – Ending Plastic Pollution

 

Plastic pollution is one of the most important environmental problems that we face today. It impacts the environment and our health and wellbeing. We have all contributed to this problem – mostly unknowingly – and we must work to reduce and ultimately to End Plastic Pollution. Earth Day Network is committed to proactively be part of the solution and has created this Plastic Pollution Primer and Action Toolkit to support anyone who wants to contribute too. Our experience of almost 50 years has taught us that people care about their communities and will act to resolve problems when they have access to relevant information and tools to help them.

Through the use of this toolkit you will be able to assess your current consumption of plastics and determine how you as an individual can lower your own plastic pollution impact. This is what we call your plastic pollution footprint. We have included a very simple to use plastic pollution footprint calculator and tracker that will allow you to monitor your progress as you reduce your plastic consumption and help to rid the world of this problem.

It is important to note that the best behavior when it comes to disposing of plastics varies drastically by location. We have done our best to include advice and recommendations that are applicable across many different contexts and locations, but not all will necessarily be useful to you.

This document is just the initial step to learning about this problem, what you can do and what resources are available to you and your community. The more you talk to others and learn about how your community and city are managing their consumption and disposal of plastics, the better prepared you will be to develop a Personal Plastic Reduction Plan.

WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT PLASTIC POLLUTION?

If you have recently walked down city streets, in the country side, or even along a beach on a remote island, you might notice something in common: plastics. Plastics are some of the most commonly littered items in the world and they are drowning our planet.

Is this a real problem, you might ask? Plastics have come to clutter almost every landscape, but they are so useful and have made our lives much easier. We can carry our purchases from the store, stay dry in the rain, store things easily and securely, and preserve perishable food. Plastics are present in furniture, construction materials, cars, appliances, electronics and countless other things. Plastics are everywhere, even in our homes. Just look closely in your refrigerator.

ACCORDING TO AN ARTICLE BY THE BBC:

- 8.3 billion metric tons (9.1 billion US tons) of virgin (non-recycled) plastic has been produced to date.

- Generating 6.3 billion metric tons (6.9 billion US tons) of plastic waste.

- 9% of that waste has been recycled.

- 12% has been incinerated.

- The remaining 79% (5.5 billion US tons) of plastic waste has accumulated in landfills and the natural environment.

- 12 billion metric tons (13.2 billion US tons) will enter landfills or the environment by 2050 if current production and waste management trends continue.

PLASTICS AND YOUR OWN HEALTH

After decades of producing trillions of oil-based plastic items, the negative consequences are startling. Plastic pollution is now recognized as a hazard to public health and the human body. Chemicals leached from some plastics used in food/beverage storage are harmful to human health. Correlations have been shown between levels of some of these chemicals, and an increased risk of problems such as chromosomal and reproductive system abnormalities, impaired brain and neurological functions, cancer, cardiovascular system damage, adult-onset diabetes, early puberty, obesity and resistance to chemotherapy.

Many plastics contain phthalates (DEHP) and the chemical BPA. If food or drink is stored in these plastics, they can be contaminated with these chemicals. If food is heated inside these containers in the microwave or if the plastic is ingested as in the case of a small child, these chemicals make their way into our food and into our bodies. Both chemicals are potentially harmful to human hormones, reproductive systems, and early childhood development.

PLASTIC AND CLIMATE

You may have thought that the only problem caused by plastic pollution is the negative effect that litter has on the environment. That is not the whole story. Plastic is a petroleum product. It is created from petroleum just like refined gasoline. The EPA estimates that production of plastic products account for an estimated 8% of global oil production. The drilling of oil and processing into plastic releases harmful gas emissions into the environment including carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, ozone, benzene, and methane (a greenhouse gas that causes a greater warming effect than carbon dioxide) according to the Plastic Pollution Coalition. The EPA estimated that five ounces of carbon dioxide are emitted for every ounce of Polyethylene Terephthalate produced (also known as PET is the plastic most commonly used to make water bottles).

It is important to remember the connection between plastics and climate change. Climate change is one of the most pressing issues we face as a planet today. If other reasons to consume less plastic weren't already enough to convince you to act, the fact that consuming plastic products exacerbates climate change should be an important reason to take personal responsibility and make a commitment to help End Plastic Pollution.

For more information and your own Ending Plastic Pollution Kit check out http://www.earthday.org.

 

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