People could be Eating a Credit Card of Plastic a Week

A study finds that people could be ingesting 5 grams of plastic, equivalent to the weight of a credit a card, weekly.

The study commissioned by the World Wide Fund of Nature and done by the University of Newcastle had combined a global analysis of data on plastic ingestion by people. The combination of the data indicates that people consume up to 2000 tiny pieces of plastic weekly, which could accumulate to 250 grams a year.

This research reinforces the urgency of plastic pollution and its negative impact on not just the environment, but as well as human health. WWF suggest that government bans single use plastic starting with plastic bags, and microbeads. Not to mention water bottles as most of the plastic people ingest is through bottle and tap water. Plastic pollution is a universal problem, affecting everyone on the plant and has not had an appropriate response by the government.

We all need to wear clothes, and fashion can be a powerful and fun way to express oneself. However, more than 60% of the clothes we wear today are made of plastic. Common fibers like nylon, spandex, and polyester are derived from fossil fuels and, like all plastics, don’t break down in the environment. Low-quality fast fashion items are dumped in countries that can’t properly manage the waste, while tiny microfibers constantly shed from our clothing and make their way into our air, oceans, food, and bodies. Fortunately, there are small lifestyle changes we can make to reduce the harm caused by textiles…and it starts with doing less. Sign the pledge to do less!

The Break Free From Plastic (BFFP) Movement’s 2023 Global Brand Audit results are here, with The Coca-Cola Company once again claiming the title of top global plastic polluter—meaning its products were found polluting the most countries with the most waste.

The annual brand audit is a participatory community initiative in which branded plastic waste is gathered, counted, and documented to identify the companies responsible for plastic pollution. The brand audits have been running for six consecutive years, following a methodology co-developed by BFFP member organizations.

In 2023, 250 brand audits were conducted by 8,804 volunteers in 41 countries. Together, they collected and audited 537,719 pieces of plastic waste. Participants from 97 civil society organizations documented 6,858 brands from 3,810 parent companies. 

Key insights from the report:

  1. The top global plastic polluters of 2023 are The Coca-Cola Company, Nestlé, Unilever, PepsiCo, Mondelēz International, Mars, Inc., Procter & Gamble, Danone, Altria, and British American Tobacco. “Top global plastic polluters” are defined as the parent companies whose brands were found polluting the most countries with the most plastic waste, according to the brand audit data.
  2. The Coca-Cola Company maintains its position as the #1 top polluter for the sixth consecutive year, setting a new record with a total plastic waste count of 33,820 – the highest tally for the company since the project’s inception.
  3. Legal actions against major corporations escalated in 2023, with lawsuits filed against Danone, Coca-Cola, and Nestlé in Europe. Brand audit data is instrumental in providing evidence for legal battles, underscoring the role of these audits in holding corporations accountable.
  4. For the first time, PepsiCo branded plastic waste items outnumbered those of The Coca-Cola Company. According to the methodology that considers how many countries a brand is found in, PepsiCo didn’t make the top polluter spot as their waste was found in 30 countries compared to Coca-Cola’s 40.

Through this effort, BFFP calls on consumer goods companies to:

  1. Reveal their plastic use by providing public data on the type and quantity of packaging used in different markets and the chemicals in that packaging.
  2. End support for false solutions such as burning plastic and chemical recycling. 
  3. Redesign business models away from single-use packaging of any type – including novel materials such as bio-based or compostable plastics.
  4. Invest in accessible, affordable reuse, refill, or packaging-free product delivery systems in all markets while ensuring a just transition for all relevant workers.

This report investigates the increased manufacturing of PVC (polyvinyl chloride or vinyl) through state-sponsored labour transfers in China’s Uyghur Region and the routes by which the resulting building materials make their way into international markets. Research uncovers how a significant amount of PVC is made with forced labor.

This collaboration between the Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice at Sheffield Hallam University and Material Research found the following:

  • the Uyghur Region has become a world leader in the production of PVC plastics in recent years, accounting for 10% of the world’s PVC.
  • The two largest PVC manufacturers in China are both state-owned enterprises based in the XUAR:
    – Xinjiang Zhongtai Chemical (2.33 million tons per year, from four locations)
    – Xinjiang Tianye (1.4 million tons capacity per year, from one location).
  • All of the Uyghur Region’s PVC companies have been active participants in the XUAR’s notorious labour transfer programs.
  • Those companies export to 73 intermediary manufacturers, who then export PVC-based building materials to at least 158 companies worldwide.

While the Safe Drinking Water Act guarantees all Americans access to clean, drinkable water, it hasn’t worked out that way in practice. NRDC partnered with the Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform (EJHA) and Coming Clean to analyze nationwide violations of the law from 2016 to 2019. Researchers have found a disturbing relationship between sociodemographic characteristics—especially race—and drinking water violations. They found that the rate of drinking water violations increased in:

  • Communities of color
  • Low-income communities
  • Areas with more non-native English speakers
  • Areas with more people living under crowded housing conditions
  • Areas with more people with sparse access to transportation

The analysis revealed that race, ethnicity, and language had the strongest relationship to slow and inadequate enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act. That means that water systems that serve the communities that are the most marginalized are more likely to be in violation of the law—and to stay in violation for longer periods of time.

Researchers assess various filters in their efficacy of removing microplastics from drinking water. Point-of-use water filters were found to be most effective at removing microplastics when they were made with a physical filter membrane compared to activated carbon and ion exchange.

Abstract: The occurrence of microplastics in drinking water has drawn increasing attention due to their ubiquity and unresolved implications regarding human health. Despite achieving high reduction efficiencies (70 to >90%) at conventional drinking water treatment plants (DWTPs), microplastics remain. Since human consumption represents a small portion of typical household water use, point-of-use (POU) water treatment devices may provide the additional removal of microplastics (MPs) prior to consumption. The primary objective of this study was to evaluate the performance of commonly used pour-through POU devices, including those that utilize combinations of granular activated carbon (GAC), ion exchange (IX), and microfiltration (MF), with respect to MP removal. Treated drinking water was spiked with polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) fragments, along with nylon fibers representing a range of particle sizes (30–1000 µm) at concentrations of 36–64 particles/L. Samples were collected from each POU device following 25, 50, 75, 100 and 125% increases in the manufacturer’s rated treatment capacity, and subsequently analyzed via microscopy to determine their removal efficiency. Two POU devices that incorporate MF technologies exhibited 78–86% and 94–100% removal values for PVC and PET fragments, respectively, whereas one device that only incorporates GAC and IX resulted in a greater number of particles in its effluent when compared to the influent. When comparing the two devices that incorporate membranes, the device with the smaller nominal pore size (0.2 µm vs. ≥1 µm) exhibited the best performance. These findings suggest that POU devices that incorporate physical treatment barriers, including membrane filtration, may be optimal for MP removal (if desired) from drinking water.