Plastic: A Toxic Love Story

In her eye-opening and engaging book, Plastic: A Toxic Love Story, journalist Susan Freinkel treks through history, science, and the global economy to assess the real impact of plastic in our lives, describing the crisis point we’ve reached. She tells her story through eight familiar plastic objects: the comb, chair, Frisbee, IV bag, disposable lighter, grocery bag, soda bottle, and credit card. Each one illuminates a different facet of our synthetic world, and together they give us a new way of thinking about a substance that has become the defining medium — and metaphor — of our age.

Marine debris is a global pollution problem affecting marine life, maritime commerce and environmental quality. Scientists, policymakers and the public must be knowledgeable about the source, impact and control efforts if effective solutions are to be developed.

Marine Debris addresses the origin of persistent solid waste in the ocean, from urban and rural discharges to waste from ships and the recreational ocean use. It identifies the key issues from biological, technological, economic and legal perspectives, and gives a framework for controlling each of the main sources of marine debris.

In Garbology, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Humes investigates the trail of 102 tons of trash—what’s in it; how much we pay for it; how we manage to create so much of it; and how some families, communities, and even nations are finding a way back from waste to discover a new kind of prosperity. Along the way, he introduces a collection of garbage denizens unlike anyone you’ve ever met: the trash-tracking detectives of MIT, the bulldozer-driving sanitation workers building Los Angeles’ immense Garbage Mountain landfill, the artists in residence at San Francisco’s dump, and the family whose annual trash output fills not a dumpster or a trash can, but a single mason jar.

Fast Moving Consumer Goods companies produce a staggering amount of plastic packaging, and most of it can’t be recycled, instead it is burned, landfilled or ends up polluting the environment. Every year, we find the same companies are the top plastic polluters during the annual brand audits.

Companies claim to care about plastic pollution, and they have made public commitments to try to tackle it. But what are they really doing in the name of solving plastic pollution?

For the first time, Break Free From Plastic has recorded the plastic solutions projects of our seven top plastic polluters, and classified the projects according to whether they are real solutions or false ones. We analysed 215 projects from The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, Nestlé, Unilever, Mars, Inc., Mondelez International and Procter & Gamble. For the first time we can see exactly how much effort these companies are putting into reducing their plastic footprint.

Written by Peter H. Gleick (2010), Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession With Bottled Water shows how water has gone from being a free natural resource to one of the most successful commercial products of the last one hundred years—and why we are poorer for it. Gleick investigates whether industry claims about the relative safety, convenience, and taste of bottled versus tap hold water. And he exposes the true reasons we’ve turned to the bottle, from fear mongering by business interests and our own vanity, to the breakdown of public systems and global inequities.

Goverments play a critical role in moving the world to a no-waste system when companies are not otherwise motivated to change their ways. Policies governing the use of plastics are the most effective way to address the problem, and they are becoming more common from the municipal to the national level. Many counties, states and cities are banning or otherwise regulating the use of plastic. These policies often focus on the most common waste items found in worldwide beach cleanups: utensils, food wrappers, plastic beverage bottles, plastic bottle caps, plastic grocery bags, other plastic bags, straws/stirrers, plastic containers, plastic lids and foam takeout containers. Since all of these items are used once and then thrown away, a logical starting point is to target single-use plastic items.

The Policy Solutions Fact Sheet explains the importance of policy as a way to reduce plastic waste, and provides examples of places where legislation has been successful in reducing the use of plastic.