The first half of 2022 has seen a wave of new policies cracking down on plastic pollution in the US and countries like Canada and India. In recent weeks, California became the fourth state that will force companies to pay for cleaning up packaging waste, while Canada and India have banned the production and import of certain single-use plastic products. Advocates say the momentum feels like a turning point in the global fight to eliminate the eight million metric tons of plastic waste that flows into oceans each year.

According to the United Nations, this is the equivalent of dumping a garbage truck every minute. The vast majority of plastic never gets recycled and ends up in landfills, in incinerators, or as litter on land and in waterways. The US is the world’s largest contributor to the problem despite representing less than 5% of the global population. “The public is increasingly making the connection between plastic and so many other issues, which is expanding the coalition of groups and individuals who care deeply about this,” Anja Brandon, a US plastics-policy analyst at the nonprofit Ocean Conservancy, said. “That, in turn, is expanding the number of policymakers who recognize plastic pollution as critically important.”

Brandon said those connections include how plastic is made from the fossil fuels that drive the climate crisis. Local governments in the US often build plastic-manufacturing plants, landfills, and incinerators in marginalized communities, which then disproportionately expose these communities to pollution. Researchers are also discovering tiny particles of plastic — known as microplastics — in human blood and stool, raising questions about potential health effects. The sustainability push has led some big brands and plastic makers to promise to make more recyclable or compostable packaging and to channel money toward local infrastructure so producers can get their materials back and reuse them.

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Author: Catherine Boudreau, Business Insider
Image: Edmar Barros, Associated Press