The Earth has remained remarkably stable since the dawn of civilisation 10,000 years ago. In 2009, experts outlined nine boundaries that keep us within the limits of this steady state. They include greenhouse gas emissions, forests, biodiversity, fresh water and the ozone layer. While we have already estimated the limits for global warming or CO2 levels, scientists have not looked at chemical pollution. The wide range of different polluting sources means that, before now, experts have not been able to reach a conclusion on the state of this particular boundary. There are reportedly around 350,000 different types of manufactured chemicals - or “novel entities” as they are known - on the global market.
Bennington, VT - Plastics are on track to contribute more climate change emissions than coal plants by 2030, a new report finds. As fossil fuel companies seek to recoup falling profits, they are increasing plastics production and cancelling out greenhouse gas reductions gained from the recent closures of 65 percent of the country’s coal-fired power plants. The New Coal: Plastics and Climate Change by Beyond Plastics at Bennington College analyzes never-before-compiled data of ten stages of plastics production, usage, and disposal and finds that the U.S. plastics industry is releasing at least 232 million tons of greenhouse gases each year, the equivalent of 116 average-sized coal-fired power plants. And that number is growing quickly.
The US government has placed further delays on a proposed multibillion dollar plastics plant in south Louisiana, marking a major victory for environmental activists and members of the majority Black community who have campaigned for years against construction. The planned $9.4bn petrochemical facility, owned by Formosa Plastics, would roughly double toxic emissions in its local area and, according to environmentalists, release up to 13m tonnes of greenhouse gases a year, the equivalent of three coal-fired power plants, to become one of the largest pollution-causing plastics facilities in the world. The 14 separate plastic plants, spread over a gargantuan 2,300 acres of land in St James Parish, could also emit up to 15,400 pounds of the cancer causing chemical ethylene oxide.
More knowledge is being gained about and more attention is being given to the harm caused to our health and the planet by plastics, from the start of their production to their disposal as waste that doesn't ever go away. Clearing the FOG speaks with Yvette Arellano, the founder and director of Fenceline Watch, an environmental justice organization based in Houston, Texas. Yvette explains that the Gulf Coast is not only the home of the oil and gas industries, but also the plastic industries that use petroleum, and how they impact mostly Vietnamese and Spanish-speaking communities. They describe the global effects of plastics, how we can best stop them and the work to create alternatives. Once you know about the problems with plastics, you will understand that stopping their production is imperative for a livable future.
Among all the chemicals and debris that fell into our waters, what drew the most attention was the billions of Linear Low-Density Polyethylene (LLDPE) and Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE) pellets that coated the beaches. Being lightweight and buoyant, the pellets have inundated the western and southern coasts of Sri Lanka. In due course, a regional problem of nurdles is bound to happen as ocean currents and winds speeds will continue the disperse.
All too often, the issue of plastic pollution is reduced to plastic straw bans led by clipboard-carrying college students, VSCO girls, and bracelets made with a promise of saving turtles. It conjures images of a wad of plastic grocery bags or perhaps a garbage island floating in the middle of the ocean somewhere. The problem is that plastic pollution isn’t just an issue of waste accumulation—plastics are also manufactured and often incinerated in communities where poor people and people of color are rarely consulted or alerted to the risks. Our communities are living this pollution every day and understand the connections between air, water, land, ocean, and human health in very personal and concrete ways.