Another reason to ditch plastic

May 2019—We already think about plastic as ocean pollution, but we’ve rarely thought about the climate impacts of its production. Plastic production has been booming in part because the wholesale fracking in the US, making natural gas cheap and available. What’s the impact of that?

Plastic production is expanding worldwide, fuelled in part by the fracking boom in the US. The report says plastic contributes to greenhouse gas emissions at every stage of its lifecycle, from its production to its refining and the way it is managed as a waste product.

This plastic binge threatens attempts to meet the Paris climate agreement. It means that by 2050 plastic will be responsible for up to 13% of the total “carbon budget” – equivalent to 615 coal-fired power plants – says the research published on Thursday.

But wait, there’s more.

If you watched the series One Strange Rock, you’ll know that most of the oxygen we breathe doesn’t come from the rainforests; it comes from diatoms in the ocean. Ocean plastic is hurting them too.

That's the troubling implication of a new study published in Communications Biology Tuesday, which found that plastic pollution can have negative impacts on the ocean bacteria that produces 10 percent of Earth's oxygen. 

"We found that exposure to chemicals leaching from plastic pollution interfered with the growth, photosynthesis and oxygen production of Prochlorococcus, the ocean's most abundant photosynthetic bacteria," lead study author and Macquarie University researcher Dr. Sasha Tetu said in a Macquarie University press release.

Plastic is ubiquitous in our lives, and it’s features do have value. Do you want to have your kid wear a glass or steel bike helmet? So what can you do?

  • Pick up litter whenever you see it. Don’t just walk by.

  • Eliminate single use plastic from your life.

  • Only buy products and packaging that can be recycled and then be sure to recycle with a service that has an excellent recovery rate.

  • Push your politicians to fight for policies that reduce the need for fracking and help countries that are the major source of ocean plastics