The dark side of plastic: understanding the impact on our bodies, ecosystems, and the world

Plastic particles are in our bodies, ecosystems, and global waterways. They are passed on through breast milk and the human placenta – known as plasticenta. Plastic is as common as oxygen and water and as toxic as white supremacy, COVID-19, and QAnon conspiracy theories. Plastic is oil. We fight wars over oil. Plastic has a history. But what is the future of plastics, and what is the earth's future as plastics strangle ecosystems and impact biological systems?

In the 1960s and with the publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carlson, the impact of plastic and other chemical production on the earth was taken seriously. 

By that time, humanity was, as Susan Frienkel writes in Plastic: A Toxic Love Story, "a century into our love affair with plastic, we're starting to realize it's not such a healthy one.  Plastics draw on dwindling fossil fuels, leach harmful chemicals, litter landscapes, and destroy marine life. And yet each year we use and consume more; we've produced as much plastic in the past decade as we did in the entire twentieth century. We're trapped in an unhealthy dependence — a toxic relationship."

As reported by the United Nations, citing a Pew Charitable Trust report, "Plastic production soared from 2 million tonnes in 1950 to 348 million tonnes in 2017, becoming a global industry valued at US$522.6 billion, and it is expected to double in capacity by 2040." 

What is to be done? What can international civil society, conservation, and human rights organizations do in solidarity?

Toward the end of coordinated global action to address the toxic scourge of plastic, in March of last year, "Heads of State, Ministers of environment and other representatives from UN Member States endorsed a historic resolution at the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5)… in Nairobi to End Plastic Pollution and forge an international legally binding agreement by 2024. The resolution addresses the full lifecycle of plastic, including its production, design, and disposal." [UN News]

Check out this short, accessible video from TRT World, "The Story of Plastic."