We must protect the global plastics treaty from corporate interference

Top plastic pollution researcher Martin Wagner at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology writes, “A United Nations-backed agreement to end plastic pollution is within reach — but only if scientists, civil society and businesses unite against powerful vested interests.”

Wagner argues that the global plastic treaty currently under negotiation, if crafted intelligently and agreed upon by world leaders, could significantly reduce global reliance on fossil fuels and plastics. This, he writes, could diminish human and planetary exposure to hazardous chemicals and harmful plastic particles. But to get there, negotiators and observers will have to agree that vested interests with the fossil fuel and plastics industries should not guide the process.

By Edward Humes

What happens to our trash? Why are our oceans filling with plastic? Do we really waste 40 percent of our food 65 percent of our energy? Waste is truly our biggest problem, and solving our inherent trashiness can fix our economy, our energy costs, our traffic jams, and help slow climate change—all while making us healthier, happier and more prosperous.     This story-driven and in-depth exploration of the pervasive yet hard-to-see wastefulness that permeates our daily lives illuminates the ways in which we’ve been duped into accepting absolutely insane levels of waste as normal. Total Garbage also tells the story of individuals and communities who are finding the way back from waste, and showing us that our choices truly matter and make a difference.

Our big environmental challenges – climate, energy, plastic pollution, deforestation, toxic emissions—are often framed as problems too big for any one person to solve. Too big even for hope. But when viewed as symptoms of a single greater problem—the epic levels of trash and waste we produce daily–the way forward is clear. Waste is the one problem individuals can positively impact—and not just on the planet, but also on our wallets, our health, and national and energy security. The challenge is seeing our epic wastefulness clearly.

Total Garbage will shine a light on the absurdity of the systems that all of us use daily and take for granted—and it will help both individuals and communities make meaningful changes toward better lives and a cleaner, greener world.

A critical issue from an occupational health perspective is how workers might be exposed to Nano- and microplastic particles (NMPPs). While much attention has focused on these plastic particles in water and food, less attention has been paid to their presence in the air. Thus, inhalation of NMPPs in the workplace should be a major concern.

Workplaces such as waste management and recycling operations could expose workers to NMPPs from the degradation of synthetic products. Office or telephone workers and custodial staff can be exposed with synthetic fibers from the carpet, along with many other professions who can be vulnerable to airborne NMPPs from the breakdown of plastic.

Inhaling NMPPs can lead to toxicity that is not yet labeled partly due to their complex chemical makeup, varied sizes, and frequent combination with other hazards, resulting in mixed exposures. It can lead to adverse health effects, especially effecting the lungs when inhaled.

Presently there are no occupational exposure limits for nano- and microplastics. In the absence of occupational exposure limits for nano- and microplastics workplace safety efforts should focus on minimizing potential exposure through appropriate engineering controls such as isolation cabinets, exhaust ventilation, and utilizing good industrial hygiene practices.

Forever chemicals (PFAS) are compounds of emerging concern due to their persistence in the global water cycle and detection in water sources.

A study investigated forever chemicals or PFAS (Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in U.S. water bottles as these toxic chemicals have been found in drinking water. Scientist investigated over 100 labeled water bottle products in the USA for PFAS and related factors. They have screen specifically for 32 target chemical compounds, half of which were detected.

These forever chemicals were detected using SPE-LC-MS/MS, and were found in 39 out of 101 tested products. Types and concertation of these forever chemicals varies, some being more prevalent than others. Purified water products contained less PFAS compared to Spring water products, which can be attributed to reverse osmosis that processes purified water.

As to date, there are no enforceable regulations against these organic pollutants.

Chemicals are a central aspect of the plastics issue. Although there is a wealth of scientific information on plastic chemicals and polymers to inform policymakers, implementing this evidence is challenging because information is scattered and not easily accessible. The PlastChem report and database address this issue by comprehensively and consistently synthesizing the state of the science on plastic chemicals, including their hazard properties, and their presence in polymers. The state-of-the-science report provides the publicly available evidence to inform policy development that protects public health and the environment.

The PlastChem project aims to address the fragmented understanding of the chemicals in plastics and their impact on health and the environment. This initiative has created a high-quality, comprehensive state-of-the-science report synthesizing the evidence about chemicals in plastics to inform an evidence-based policy development for better protecting public health and the environment.

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.