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Break Up with Plastic, Author Says
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Artist-activist Benjamin Von Wong, who attended this week’s Forum, auctioned off three photographs that he made using plastic straws fished out of the ocean. The money will benefit a program that pays Haitians to collect plastic that Hewlett-Packard will use in its products.
 
Friday, July 26, 2019
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

We eat, drink and breathe in a credit card’s worth of plastic in one week.

We dump the equivalent of a garbage truck full of plastic every minute into the ocean.

It’s no wonder plastic pollution is the face of the environmental crisis right now. But it’s not a fad or trend, an author says.

We have plastic pollution everywhere—not just in the ocean. And the plastic problem is connected to everything from fossil fuels to greenhouse gas emissions, Holly Kaufman told 200 innovators and policy makers attending the fifth annual Sun Valley Forum Thursday.

Kaufman, author of “No Such Place As ‘Away’: Plastic Pollution in the Oceans,” spoke at the three-day forum which is held every year to try to find innovative solutions to some of the most vexing problems facing the world. This year’s conference focused on climate change.

Kaufman noted that plastic is produced by oil, gas, coal and even fracking.

It’s good that it’s so durable, she said.

“We don’t want parts inside our body or on the plane we fly to degrade,” she said. “But it’s never goes away. Every bit of plastic ever made still exists. And recycling only delays the time until it becomes waste.”

One percent of the ocean consists of plastic.

We’re making 20 times more plastic than we did 50 years ago. And half the plastics ever made were made since 2004.

We buy one million plastic bottles per minute.

Even if you don’t eat fish, chances are you still end up eating plastic, Kaufman said. Seventy-five percent of the world’s small fish catch is used to feed chickens and hogs.

Men around the world are becoming biologically less male, losing testosterone—something that’s attributed to plastic. And their male anatomy is getting smaller, as a result, she said.

Producing plastic is one of the most greenhouse gas intensive industries there is. It produced the emissions equivalent of 190 coal plants in 2019. And it’s estimated that will increase to the equivalent of more than 600 coal-fired plants by 2050.

“We need to drastically reduce production of plastic, and we need to stop creating new gas, oil and petrochemical infrastructure,” she said.

 

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