How can we better dispose of PPE so it doesn’t keep polluting our oceans?

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Six months after the Ocean Conservancy added a PPE category to its waste collection app, beach cleaners said they collected 107,219 such items. It’s another sad reality of the COVID-19 era that some of the steps we’re taking to stay safe and combat the coronavirus spread are often in opposition to hard-fought efforts to curb the use of plastics for a cleaner planet. Early in the pandemic, as the use of reusable items was scaled back for fear of the virus spreading via objects, planned plastic bag bans were rolled back or postponed across the country. What’s more, an entirely new form of plastic pollution has surged—waste from PPE, or personal protective equipment—and we’re just starting to understand its impact. Read Full Story

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Masks, gloves, and other coronavirus waste are starting to fill up our oceans

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The key to preventing coronavirus waste threatening the oceans may be to discourage the use of disposable masks and other single-use PPE. It’s not news that our trash eventually finds its way to the ocean. Because oceans are downstream, litter will eventually find a pathway into our bodies of water if it’s not discarded properly—and often even if it is. But as the COVID-19 crisis slowly generates a new kind of waste, made up of disposable masks and other PPE items, it’s posing new problems for the Earth’s oceans. The flood of PPE could cause immediate danger to wildlife, and long-term plastic pollution that threatens to contaminate food supplies. Read Full Story

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Plastic credits are the newest kind of pollution offset—but do they make a difference?

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In their attempts to go “plastic neutral,” some companies are paying to clean up plastic from nature. But does that mean anything if it just gives them license to make more plastic themselves? One factor at the core of our climate crisis is excess: We’re producing too many carbon emissions, more than our atmosphere can handle. We’re creating too much single-use plastic, more than can be recycled. This excess has reached dangerous levels. Our planet has just 9% of its global carbon budget left, and each year, 8 million tons of plastic makes its way into our oceans. Read Full Story

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Disposable plastic is bad for the environment, but is it illegal? Coca-Cola and Pepsi are about to find out

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A landmark suit filed in California is putting some of the biggest producers of plastic on trial. Coca-Cola. Nestlé. Pepsi. Mars. P&G. These are some of the world’s most iconic brands. They are also some of the biggest plastic polluters on the planet. They sell goods in single-use plastic containers, which end up in our oceans and never biodegrade. Whether we buy their products or not, we’re all affected by their footprint. And in turn, a landmark lawsuit by the Plastic Pollution Coalition and Earth Island Institute has been filed in California against all of the aforementioned corporations and several other major food, beverage, and consumer product companies. The groups are suing for damages to repair the problem of plastic waste. Read Full Story

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Garbage has never looked as cool as these Pacific Garbage Patch sunglasses

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The first product to come from the Ocean Cleanup’s efforts to remove plastic from the ocean are these Yves Behar-designed shades. Late in 2019, the Ocean Cleanup crew returned from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch with its first load of plastic waste harvested from the ocean during a pilot test of its trash-fighting technology , proving that it could skim plastic off the surface of the water. But then came the next hurdle in the company’s yearslong quest to prove its effectiveness: how to recycle that plastic so it didn’t become waste again. Read Full Story

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Ocean plastic is on track to triple by 2040

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But there is a path to stopping it. Plastic pollution in the ocean is on track to get a lot worse: In two decades, if business continues as usual, there will be nearly three times as much plastic waste leaking into the ocean every year, according to a new analysis. By 2040, since the existing plastic in the ocean isn’t degrading, there could be a cumulative total of 600 million tons of plastic in the water. But solutions exist now to eliminate the vast majority of the new waste. Read Full Story

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The U.S. is one of the world’s worst ocean plastic polluters

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Though the U.S. made up around 4% of the global population in 2016, it produced 17% of the world’s plastic waste. Americans may have a distorted view about what happens to the incredible amount of plastic we use. Despite decades of discussion about the importance of recycling, only around half of Americans can leave their recyclables at the curb with the garbage. And even when old plastic bottles or packages do end up in recycling bins, they often aren’t recycled (though glass and aluminum are). Instead, they end up being shipped to other countries that don’t have adequate recycling infrastructure to handle the waste. Because of this, a new study calculates that the U.S. is one of the world’s largest contributors to ocean plastic pollution, ranking just behind Indonesia and India. Read Full Story

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This designer transformed cigarette butts into stunning works of art

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Cigarettes are the most littered item in the world. Designer Sachi Tungare wants to turn this waste into beautiful, useful objects. When we think of the trash that pollutes our planet, we tend to imagine things like plastic bags, food wrappers, and straws. But cigarette butts are actually the most littered item in the world, with 4.5 trillion tossed out every year. And it’s not just the toxins that make this such a problem. Cigarettes have a thin plastic filter made of cellulose acetate, which doesn’t decompose but degrades into microplastic that ends up in water streams, harming marine animals. Read Full Story

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Millions of face masks are discarded monthly. What if we turned them into furniture?

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129 billion face masks are produced each month. This designer turned some of them into furniture. The coronavirus has caused devastation around the world, including a new surge in plastic pollution. Every month, an estimated 129 billion plastic face masks and 65 billion gloves are produced. Since plastic doesn’t biodegrade, these items will stay in our landfills and oceans for hundreds of years. Read Full Story

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Green is good, right? Consumers don’t always see it that way

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Researchers have found that consumers think eco-friendly products are less effective than their traditional, more polluting counterparts. Scroll through Instagram, and you’ll notice many brands touting their eco-friendly credentials. There’s an image of Allbirds, which uses sustainable wool to make high-tops, and Adidas, which is using plastic pulled out of the ocean to make running shoes. Blueland sells refillable cleaning spray bottles and tablets of soap that you dissolve in water, to cut down on waste. Grove makes toilet paper out of sustainable bamboo. Read Full Story

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How much plastic Amazon packaging is ending up in the ocean?

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The world’s largest retailer is partially responsible for a pandemic-inspired surge in ocean plastic. A new report tries to estimate how much. As online shopping has surged during the pandemic, it’s also driving up the amount of plastic packaging that’s ending up in landfills—or escaping into the ocean. Because it’s the world’s largest retailer, Amazon is likely responsible for some significant percentage of that increase. But despite the company’s very public push for sustainability, it won’t disclose its plastic footprint. Instead, a new report from the nonprofit Oceana tries to estimate how much plastic waste the company is creating. Read Full Story

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