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Plastic Pollution: 2020 Edition

Pace Environmental Law Review: “Throughout its “lifecycle,” plastic poses major risks to environmental and human health,affecting “terrestrial, aquatic, and atmospheric environments.” Health-harming toxins released from raw materials extraction (i.e., oil and natural gas); refinement- and production-associated air pollution; toxins inhaled or ingested through microplastics; and food chain contamination are some of the many plastic-associated public health impacts. Ecosystems and wildlife also notably suffer from plastics pollution: studies have observed “overwhelming evidence” of “direct and indirect deleterious effects of microplastic pollution” on coastal species, with 8 million metric tons of the substance finding its way into the ocean each year. Once plastic enters the environment, its impacts are long lasting: in 2019, the Center for International Environmental Law found that “Roughly two-thirds of all plastic ever produced has been released into the environment and remain there in some form—as debris in the oceans, as micro- or nanoparticles in air and agricultural soils, as microfibers in water supplies, or as microparticles in the human body.”The material has even become a “key geological indicator” of the Anthropocene.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, plastic pollution has been on the rise. Increased medical waste, frontline workers’ need for personal protective equipment, the shift to takeout dining and citizen demand for single use plastics, and cheaper raw materials have all contributed to this trend…”

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