60×40: A Global Wave to Halt Plastic Production and Save Our Planet
August 2, 2023
With over 5 trillion pieces of plastics floating around in our oceans, the dire repercussions of pollution on all marine life have come to light and become impossible to ignore. We know all plastics can starve birds and suffocate sea life, but further research reveals a more complex reality: plastics are equally detrimental to human health. Thousands of chemicals present in plastics have been proven to cause hormone disruption, leading to developmental issues and even certain types of cancer.
Microplastics are everywhere, raising eyebrows as they infiltrate our food chain, triggering an alarm on the health risks tied to perpetual exposure to plastics. Humans are believed to consume 78,000 and 211,000 microplastic particles every year. Not only are they in the food we eat and the water we drink, they are in our skincare products, 60% of our clothes, and even in the air we breathe.
To add on to an already startling list, plastic waste is a disease vector, and the entire lifecycle of plastics contributes directly to climate change. Promoting widespread public awareness of the damage caused by plastic to human, animal, and all biodiversity’s health is one of the most crucial steps we can take towards addressing human addiction to plastics.
EARTHDAY.ORG’s global theme for Earth Day 2024, Planet vs. Plastics, calls for the end of plastics for the sake of human and planetary health, demanding a 60% reduction in the production of plastics by 2040, and an ultimate goal of building a plastic-free future for generations to come.
To achieve this ambitious goal, we must focus on several key areas: firstly, raising awareness about health risks; secondly, advocating for the rapid elimination of all single-use plastics; thirdly, pushing for an end of fast fashion; and finally, investing in innovative technologies and alternative materials to construct a plastic-free world.
Plastics extend beyond an imminent environmental issue, presenting a grave threat to human health as alarming as climate change. As plastics break down into microplastics, they release toxic chemicals into our food and water sources and circulate through the air we breathe. Plastic production now has grown to more than 380 million tons per year. More plastic has been produced in the last ten years than in the entire 20th century, and the industry plans to grow explosively for the indefinite future.
More than 500 billion plastic bags — one million bags per minute — were produced worldwide last year. Many plastic bags have a working life of a few minutes, followed by an afterlife of centuries. Even after plastics disintegrate, they remain as microplastics, minute particles permeating every niche of life on the planet.
100 billion plastic beverage containers were sold last year in the United States – that’s more than 300 bottles per person in the world. A few of them will be converted into park benches; none of them will be made into new plastic bottles and 95% of all plastics in the US won’t be recycled at all. Even the 5% of plastics being recycled are “downcycling” to inferior products or shipped to poorer countries for “recycling,” leaving the demand for virgin plastic undiminished.
The fast fashion industry is a huge contributor to plastic waste, and many don’t even realize it. The fast fashion industry annually produces over 100 billion garments. Overproduction and overconsumption have transformed the industry, leading to the disposability of fashion. People now buy 60% more clothing than 15 years ago, but each item is kept for only half as long.
Approximately 85% of garments end up in landfills or incinerators, with only 1% being recycled. Nearly 70% of clothing is made from crude oil, resulting in the release of dangerous microfibers when washed and continued contribution to long-term pollution in landfills.
Social injustice and fashion are directly intertwined, with exploitative working conditions, low wages, and widespread child labor. For far too long, the industry has relied on a fractured supply chain and an almost total lack of governmental regulation.
By shedding light on the alarming health impacts of plastics and emphasizing the urgency to halt their production, we can inspire individuals to take action and make informed choices. Phasing out single-use plastics would eliminate 50% of plastic pollution plaguing our planet annually. Creating garments out of textiles free of synthetic, plastic based materials would eliminate 34.8% of all primary microplastics in our environment. A 60% reduction by 2040 is an attainable and vital goal. United together, we can build a plastic free future for generations to come! To learn more and join the movement, please visit the Earth Day 2024 page.