The Week in Plastic August 3 - August 9

Updated: Aug 16

Having already cleared 170 tons of marine plastic this summer, the Ocean Voyages Institute announced that they will continue their mission until they have cleared at least a million pounds from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Already, the cleanup effort is the largest single open-ocean waste removal in history. While community roadside cleanups are great, this magnitude of ocean cleanup could make a measurable impact on ecosystem health-- Way to go!


Meanwhile, Wales is seeking input from the public on their own plans to reduce single-use plastic -- the call will be open until October 22nd.


In science news, a forthcoming study in the journal Science of the Total Environment confirmed that machine-drying synthetic fabrics releases plastic microfiber pollution into the air. In the same journal, Hohn et al. published modeling which suggests that technologies to skim plastic off of the surface of the ocean will not be nearly sufficient to solve the plastic waste crisis.

A sea turtle skeleton tangled in a plastic net, part of the waste recovered by the Ocean Voyages Institute this summer.

Meanwhile, this week the nonprofit organization As You Sow released a new report on the plastic pollution crisis, "Waste and Opportunity 2020: Searching for Corporate Leadership". And what did they find on their search for corporate leadership?.... Well, not much leadership. The report quantitatively assessed plastic waste initiatives by 50 large corporations, rating them in a variety of areas including packaging design, support for recycling, and data transparency. Results indicated that while a number of corporations have strong recycling efforts, there has been a notable lack of initiative on other fronts, including in developing reusable materials. Among the lowest-ranked corporations were usual suspects WalMart, Kroger, Pepsico, and Tyson Foods.


Another new report, from the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, lampoons so-called "advanced recycling" as an industry ploy, calling chemical recycling an “industry shell game” that keeps single-use plastics in production, contributes to climate change, and produces toxic chemicals that disproportionately harm marginalized communities.



Finally, two new high-profile articles on plastic pollution were published in the popular media:

  • #Circulareconomy entrepreneur Kate Jackson published a short piece in Forbes, arguing that a circular economy antidote to planned obsolescence can be economically viable. She plans to put the concept into action with her forthcoming low-waste furniture company "Now, Sit Down".

  • A new article in National Geographic highlighted research demonstrating the extent to which #microplastics and nanoplastics have pervaded our surroundings, polluting the water we drink and the air we breathe. With great quotes from microplastics researchers around this world, more of this this type of highly visible but evidence-based media coverage is exactly what is needed to raise awareness on plastic pollution.


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