Over 99 percent of today’s plastics come from oil, but new bio-based options are becoming available.
Icons by Vectors Market, Freepik and srip
One big problem with plastics is that they're largely made of petroleum. Sourcing bio-polymers from plants and bacteria has some big benefits – and the technology is starting to take off.
Academics from different disciplines come Head to Head in this series to tackle topical debates.
In the EU, 31% of plastic products go to landfill: but a process called "cold plasma pyrolysis" could turn them into clean fuels.
Instead of fighting other countries, we should be fighting our overflowing landfills.
Trump's plan to slap $200 billion more in tariffs on Chinese goods is premised on yesterday's waste-fueled economy. Tomorrow's economy is 'circular.'
Many plastics that used BPA have now replaced it with substitutes like BPS, a related molecule that may have just as many health issues.
BPA, used widely in plastics and as a liner in food cans, was replaced by a related chemical called BPS. But it seems that this substitute may also harm eggs and sperm and disrupt hormones.
The market for plastic recycling is drying up, prompting a discussion over what to do with household waste.
Incineration of household waste has gotten a bad name, argues an economist, who sees today's recycling crisis as an opportunity to reconsider how the U.S. handles its waste.
Debris pulled from a Lake Erie marina during a cleanup, June 9, 2012.
NOAA Office of Response and Restoration
Roughly 10,000 tons of plastic enter the Great Lakes every year, and scientists want to know where it ends up. There are some parallels to ocean plastics, but also important differences.
Conveyors carry mixed plastic into a device that will shred recycle them at a plastics recycling plant in Vernon, California.
AP Photo/Reed Saxon,File
Since China stopped importing 'foreign garbage' in March 2018, scrap – especially plastic – has built up in the US. Will this shock trigger long-overdue investments in plastic recycling here?
Food packaging is one of the top uses for plastic in consumer goods.
Bio-based plastics made from natural sources break down more easily than conventional plastic, without producing toxic byproducts. But for this to happen they have to be composted, not buried in landfills.
Used once and done.
Research is yielding strategies for making plastics greener and more sustainable. But without support as they scale up, new versions will struggle to compete with well-established synthetic plastics.
Microplastics in the Mediterranean Sea.
By Dirk Wahn/shutterstock.com
Microplastics are everywhere--our water, soil, and even the air we breathe. The consequences of this exposure on human health is unknown. But studies in animals give us reason to worry.
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is used in a variety of applications from plumbing to health care to electronics.
By SIRIKANLAYA KHLIBNGERN/shutterstock.com
The most common explanation for obesity is overeating calorie-rich foods and a sedentary lifestyle. But new studies suggest that chemicals in our environment might be another cause.
One plastic is particularly well-suited for the kitchen’s extreme temperatures.
Kitchens are like mini laboratories, with foods and utensils exposed to extreme temperatures. So it's no surprise that a material used for Mars missions has found its way into a range of cooking ware.
Millions of tons of plastic are manufactured every year.
In 2015, over 320 million tons of polymers, excluding fibers, were manufactured across the globe.
Every day we throw away plastic and every day we're reminded of its environmental impact. Why can't something be done about it?
Single-use biodegradable plastics include claims that they break down quickly into benign end products, but the reality is more complex.
New types of biodegradable or compostable plastic products seem to offer an alternative to conventional plastics. But they may be no better for the environment.
Sea turtle eating a plastic bag.
Plastic bags are commonly mistaken for food by sea animals. They require a lot of energy and resources to be made, and have caused floods in some countries.
Connecting smugglers, disposable workers, garbage pickers and the poorest of consumers, the flip-flop trail is one of globalisation’s darker stories.
Plastic debris strewn across a beach.
We're drowning in plastics. With governments setting un-ambitious targets, corporations are now listening to consumers who are demanding less plastic packaging and food containers.
Sure, ditch the coffee cups. But don’t say goodbye to these too soon.
We can safely say goodbye to most single-use plastics. But they do have essential uses in some areas, such as for medical or scientific samples, or storing food for humanitarian aid.