Monitor compartments, mitigate sectors: A framework to deconstruct the complexity of plastic pollution

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Abstract: “The rapid growth in science, media, policymaking, and corporate action aimed at “solving” plastic pollution has revealed an overwhelming complexity, which can lead to paralysis, inaction, or a reliance on downstream mitigations. Plastic use is diverse – varied polymers, product and packaging design, pathways to the environment, and impacts – therefore there is no silver bullet solution. Policies addressing plastic pollution as a single phenomenon respond to this complexity with greater reliance on downstream mitigations, like recycling and cleanup. Here, we present a framework of dividing plastic use in society into sectors, which can be used to disentangle the complexity of plastic pollution and direct attention to upstream design for the circular economy. Monitoring plastic pollution in environmental compartments will continue to provide feedback on mitigations, but with a sector framework, scientists, industry, and policymakers can begin to shape actions to curb the harmful impacts of plastic pollution at the source.”

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