Plastic Waste Is A Global Crisis

Plastic waste has always been international. Microplastics do not care about borders and plastic waste litters all our oceans and shores. Not to mention richer countries sending their plastic waste to developing countries to be recycled and processed overseas. 

Considering how global the issue is, it is remarkable that plastic waste has been tackled mostly at municipal and national level. This finally changed in March 2022 when the United Nations Environment Assembly passed a historic resolution to end plastic pollution and create an international legally binding agreement by 2024. 

If you don’t think plastic waste is a huge international issue, consider how it contributes to the “triple planetary crisis” of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. Plastic production creates greenhouse-gas emissions since plastic is made out of fossil fuels. It leads to biodiversity loss when plastic waste destroys habitats and animals suffer to plastic consumption. And it causes huge amounts of pollution as plastic gets dumped into our environment. 

Throughout history, some countries and people have borne a heavier burden of plastic production and pollution. The United States produces the most plastic waste in the world, but not all Americans have to deal with the consequences. Minority and low-income communities are at a much higher risk of living close to plastic production facilities or landfills and polluted areas. 

Consider for example the “Cancer Alley” located along the lower Mississippi River in Louisiana with its nearly 150 oil refineries, plastics plants, and chemical facilities.  According to the United Nations, “The ever-widening corridor of petrochemical plants has not only polluted the surrounding water and air, but also subjected the mostly African American residents in St. James Parish to cancer, respiratory diseases, and other health problems.” 

Based on all this, plastic waste is not only an environmental issue, it is also a health issue, an international issue, and a human rights issue. It is high time that plastic waste is tackled at an international level and that the United States as the biggest plastic waste polluter takes real responsibility from its actions.

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