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.

Plastics’ hormone-disrupting chemicals contribute substantially to disease and associated social costs in the United States, accounting for $250 billion in 2018 alone, or 1.22% of the gross domestic product. The costs of plastic pollution will continue to accumulate as long as exposures continue at current levels. Researchers stress that actions through the Global Plastics Treaty and other policy initiatives will reduce these costs in proportion to the actual reductions in chemical exposures achieved.

The toxic chemicals 6PPD and 6PPD-quinone have been detected in the urine of adults, children, and pregnant women in three regions of South China. 6PPD and 6PPD-quinone are commonly used additives in synthetic rubber vehicle tires, and have been found to harm aquatic life. The researchers conclude more research must be done to understand the human health risks of exposure to this chemical.

Abstract: N-(1,3-Dimethylbutyl)-N′-phenyl-p-phenylenediamine (6PPD) and its quinone derivative, 6PPD-quinone (6PPD-Q), have been found to be prevalent in the environment, but there are currently no data on their presence in humans. Herein, we conducted the first human biomonitoring study of 6PPD and 6PPD-Q by measuring 150 urine samples collected from three different populations (general adults, children, and pregnant women) in South China. Both 6PPD and 6PPD-Q were detected in the urine samples, with detection frequencies between 60% and 100%. Urinary 6PPD-Q concentrations were significantly higher than those of 6PPD and correlated well with those of 6PPD (p < 0.01), indicating coexposure to 6PPD and 6PPD-Q in humans. In vitro metabolic experiments demonstrated rapid depletion of 6PPD by human liver microsomes, which should be responsible for the lower concentrations of 6PPD in human urine. Additionally, pregnant women exhibited apparently higher concentrations of 6PPD and 6PPD-Q (median 0.068 and 2.91 ng/mL, respectively) than did adults (0.018 and 0.40 ng/mL) and children (0.015 and 0.076 ng/mL). The high daily urinary excretion of 6PPD-Q in pregnant women was estimated to be 273 (ng/kg bw)/day. Considering that 6PPD-Q was a lethal toxicant to multiple aquatic species, the potential human health risks posed by its long-term exposure require urgent attention.

Scientists who attended INC-3, the third round of United Nations (UN) Plastics Treaty negotiations, say progress is slow and disappointing, reports Nicola Jones for Nature. This article sheds light on experts’ perspectives on how to solve plastic pollution, and provides key details from INC-3.