New Study Finds that Plastic Pollution is an Environmental Justice Issue

by Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer

A new UN report suggests that plastic pollution isn’t just a threat to marine life — it’s also an issue of environmental justice. The report, titled Neglected: Environmental Justice Impacts of Plastic Pollution, highlights that poor nations and communities around the world disproportionately suffer the effects of plastic waste. This is especially true as wealthier nations send their plastic waste to their poorer counterparts. 

Report coauthor Marce Gutiérrez-Graudiņš said in a press release that “Current efforts, limited to managing and decreasing plastic pollution, are inadequate to address the whole scope of problems plastic create.”

Why This Matters: There’s more plastic than ever on the planet right now — between 1950 and 2015, the world produced more than 9 billion tons of plastic, with over 50% of this plastic created in the last 18 years. If plastic use continues to grow at this rate, the world is set to generate 38 billion tons of plastic by 2025, enough to cover every foot of the earth’s coastline with a layer of 100 plastic bags

Plastic use has only increased since the beginning of the pandemic and the report’s authors worry that plastic use was becoming part of a “triple emergency” along with the climate crisis and biodiversity loss.


The Search for Solutions: The report detailed several solutions that could help this crisis: further research about the health impacts of plastic, monitoring plastic waste, policies that prohibit single-use plastics, and better systems of waste management, recycling, and reuse. 

In March, Congressional leaders reintroduced a bill called the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act, which would pass sweeping recycling and single-use plastic regulations. The bill, which was originally introduced last year, would implement a nationwide extended producer responsibility (EPR) program, minimum recycled content mandates, a national container deposit system, and single-use plastic bags. It would also implement a three-year pause on issuing permits for new plastic production facilities.

But the UN report authors also emphasized that this global problem should also have global solutions. The authors called for an international treaty that could gradually eliminate plastic pollution and production.

As EcoWatch explained, David Azoulay, the director of the Center for International Environmental Law’s health program who did not help write the report, said its emphasis on human rights could help provide a framework for such a treaty.

Up Next

Biden Pledges $20 Billion to Dismantle Highways, Racial Justice Activists Cautiously Celebrate

Biden Pledges $20 Billion to Dismantle Highways, Racial Justice Activists Cautiously Celebrate

President Biden’s new infrastructure plan contains something surprising — funding for “construction” projects to remove highways. Why?  Because for decades, Black communities in cities across the U.S. have been cut off and/or divided by highways and major roads that were built without regard to their impact on those neighborhoods

Why This Matters: Highways built in the 50s and 60s often came at the expense of communities of color. Their impact enforced segregation, disrupt thriving communities, and distanced Black people from city resources and job opportunities.

Continue Reading 590 words
Wealthy EU Nations Move to Stop Trash Burning

Wealthy EU Nations Move to Stop Trash Burning

by Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer European Union countries like Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden have been sending millions of tons of trash to be burned in “waste to energy” incinerators. But because of the incinerators’ CO2 emissions and health impacts, the bloc is starting to cut off funding for new plants. This change “comes […]

Continue Reading 392 words
One Eco-Efficient Thing:  Google Map Routes With Lowest Carbon Footprint Navigation

One Eco-Efficient Thing: Google Map Routes With Lowest Carbon Footprint Navigation

We are already so dependent on Google maps it’s hard to imaging how we could need them more!  But soon they will provide even better services thanks to some work with the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab.  When you are looking at directions, the default option will be the one with the lowest […]

Continue Reading 147 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.