End Plastics

Solving plastic pollution will help us stop climate change

Two of the biggest environmental crises in the world today are climate change and plastic pollution. There is no question that these two issues require real-time innovation and action in order to minimize the effect they will have on generations to come.

Plastic pollution and climate change are not separate issues, but rather are closely linked in a variety of ways. According to researchers from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, plastic production and disposal resulted in 850 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 and may be responsible for up to 2.8 billion tons by 2050. With numbers like these, it’s no secret that many solutions to the world’s plastic problem go hand-in-hand with solutions to the climate crisis.

Stop burning plastic

One avenue to explore is how we manage plastic after it has been discarded by consumers. Most plastic will end up in landfills or in the environment after it is discarded. However, as plastic pollution continues to grow every year, the space to manage these plastics becomes more and more finite. 

One solution nations have found to this issue is to simply burn the waste. This method not only produces toxic gases and disperses pollutants into our air, but also is responsible for 38 percent of all the carbon emitted from plastic pollution. By advancing our capabilities around other plastic disposal methods instead of incineration, we could cut out one third of carbon emissions from plastic pollution. 

These advancements need to come in the forms of more accessible waste disposal units, equitable waste pickup systems and investment in recycling. Recycling comes with many limits, however, and should not be hailed as the be-all-end-all solution by any means. Even more important is focusing on the source of the problem: the industries making all that plastic.

Shift the responsibility for plastic disposal

Another method that could greatly reduce the plastic crisis is to support the creation  and support of policies that make plastic producers responsible for the waste associated with their products. Consumers often do not have many choices other than recycling, which has been shown to be ineffective in solving the world’s plastic waste issue. 

However, large corporations do have the resources to manage waste and therefore should be responsible for shouldering the burden that plastic places on their consumers. A few examples of how producers can do this is through national buyback programs that incentives the collection and proper disposal of plastics and requires producers to use a minimum amount of recycled materials in their packaging.

These shifts are especially important in places like the United States which produces more plastic packaging waste per capita than any other country. Sign our petition to support the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, which can make progress by requiring plastic producers to assume responsibility for their products.

Give consumers a fair choice

One final way that we can greatly reduce the impact of plastic is to invest in plastic alternatives and to support plastic policies, such as plastic bans, in all levels of governments. For the average consumer, plastics are almost unavoidable due to a lack of alternatives and overwhelming use of plastic in everyday goods. Alternative packaging options, such as biodegradable food containers, and policies that demand the use of less plastic can help consumers cut their plastic use.

Along with making it easier for consumers to reduce their plastic use, there are some ways we can all lessen our plastic footprints now. We can use reusable grocery bags, buy more glass or paper packaging and educate ourselves on the brands we decide to buy from. To help you get started, read our blog about making your bathroom plastic free without breaking the bank! These steps may seem small but if everyone took the time to practice them, we as consumers could have a great impact on plastic pollution as well.

Use your voice, challenge yourself to go plastic free and encourage those around you to act as well. Take the pledge to act on plastic pollution and use EARTHDAY.ORG’S Plastic Footprint Calculator to see the impact your plastic use is having. With collective action we can create a future free of plastics and give generations to come a more stable and healthy environment.