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FEATURED REPORT

Plastic Pollution

- December 7, 2018
Can the global mess be cleaned up?
Featured Report

Plastic waste is clogging landfills, sullying cityscapes, fouling oceans with massive debris fields and killing sea creatures that ingest everything from discarded fishing equipment to disposable food containers. The problem has become so acute that plastic could outweigh ocean fish by 2050. The crisis threatens not only wildlife but also human health, as plastic breaks down into microscopic pieces that enter the global food chain. Environmentalists have long promoted recycling as a key strategy for curbing plastic pollution, and more recycling plants in the United States and Asia are planned. But China — once the world's leading recycler — announced last January that it would stop accepting plastic waste from other nations, creating uncertainty about where millions of tons of plastic detritus will go. As the threat grows, more municipalities are banning plastic shopping bags and drinking straws, and corporations are redesigning packaging to reduce waste. But conservationists say such steps will go only so far. The real solution, they say, is to stop producing so much plastic.

Ocean Cleanup

A giant boom is taking on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Creating Energy

Researchers are trying to turn plastic waste into fuel.

Regulating Plastic

Bans target straws and bags.

 
1800s–1910sDiscoveries pave the way for the plastics industry.
1920s–1950sInventors create plastic products.
1960s–1970sManufacturers introduce plastic bags and bottles.
1980s–1990sLaws ban ocean dumping as plastic pollution increases.
2000s–PresentAs awareness of plastic pollution grows, governments begin banning and taxing plastic bags.
   

Is taxing plastic production the best way to control plastic waste?

Pro

John Hocevar
Oceans Campaign Director, Greenpeace USA.

Con

Steve Russell
Vice President, Plastics Division, American Chemistry Council.

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