Plastic is Fueling the Climate Crisis
Almost all plastics are made from fossil fuels. Data from the Greenpeace report, the Climate Emergency Unpacked, and Break Free from Plastic’s 2021 brand audit report, Branded IV, shows that plastic poses a significant threat to the planet and contributes significantly to the climate crisis. Petrochemical corporations have known this connection since the 1980s, but have largely played it down. Every stage of plastic’s life cycle produces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from fossil fuel exploration and extraction from the ground to its end of life. Plastic production and use was responsible for over 850 million metric tons of GHG emissions in 2019.
2021-2030 is a decisive decade for the climate. The world has less than 10 years to deliver on drastic decarbonization and climate goals, yet the petrochemical and consumer goods industries remain on a trajectory to increase carbon-intensive plastic production and use. As fossil fuel demand declines, major fossil fuel corporations are investing billions in the expansion of plastic production. The continuing significant investments in plastics signal the lack of commitment of the consumer goods, petrochemical, and fossil fuel industries to take significant action to address the climate emergency.
Plastic Harms Wildlife and Disrupts Ecosystems
Plastic pollution threatens wildlife, and disrupts ecosystems. According to the United Nations, plastic pollution has affected an estimated 800 marine and coastal species through ingestion, entanglement, and habitat change. A Department of Environment and Natural Resources study confirming the presence of microplastics in Philippine waters escalates the urgent need for action. Researchers studying the impacts of plastics on terrestrial ecosystems have equally concerning findings. Plastic surfaces or particles can carry disease-causing organisms, cause inflammation, and traverse highly-selective membranes in animals. Plastics also threaten soil fauna functions and can leach toxic additives into the soil and groundwater, some of which can disrupt the hormone systems of vertebrates and invertebrates.
Combined with the stress of climate change and other pollution on our ecosystems, plastics create grievous environmental conditions in ecosystems that support our food, water, and livelihoods. Thus, plastic’s impact on nature has disturbing consequences for people.
False Solutions Cannot Resolve the Plastic Crisis
Youth and Communities
Many people still see the plastic crisis as a problem about waste and individual responsibility. However, the gravity of their impacts extends not only across boundaries, but also across generations. Without drastic interventions, its adverse impacts on environmental health and subsequent economic and social effects would be felt from the global to the local level for decades. This makes the plastics crisis an impediment to intergenerational justice, hindering the ability of the current youth and future generations to achieve sustainable development in an individual or collective capacity.
The linkage between the plastics crisis and social injustices is also manifested in how communities experience losses and damages from its impacts. Social and economic inequalities from the global to the local level result in poorer communities bearing the brunt of both direct and indirect impacts that can compound already existing vulnerabilities. Marginalized sectors such as women and fisherfolk are at higher short and long-term risk to plastic pollution, in terms of health and livelihoods.
Consumer Goods Companies Must Take Action to Phase Out Plastic and Adopt Reuse Systems
The intensifying effects of the plastic crisis–both in exacerbating the climate emergency and inflicting harms to human and planetary health–necessitate urgent action from consumer goods companies to phase out single-use plastics. The undersigned organizations and individuals are calling on consumer goods companies to:
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