6 most common sources of plastic pollution

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plastic marine litter
credit: Bo Eide


The 5 Gyres Institute has published a report called “The Plastics BAN List.” Its purpose is to assess which plastics are most damaging to human health and the environment. Plastic waste was collected and analyzed to see in which form it’s most commonly found, which toxic chemicals are used to create the plastics, and what recovery systems (i.e. recycling, composting, reuse) exist, if any.

The list includes “Better Alternatives Now” (that’s where the BAN acronym comes in) – ways in which consumers, industry, and government can take voluntary action without waiting for technological fixes.

Voluntary action is key because, as the BAN list explains in its Findings and Recommendations, nearly all of these products have no economic value in today’s recycling systems. This may come as a shock to those people who think recycling is a viable green solution:

“Nearly all of the 15 products on the BAN List have no economic value in today’s recycling systems. They are literally ‘designed for the dump’ and are often contaminants in recycling systems, either damaging equipment and causing costly repairs when they enter recycling facilities (like plastic bags) or ending up as a net cost for recyclers to unload at a loss (like polystyrene) rather than as profitable materials.”

You’ll recognize every single one of the following items from your own forays into parks, along beaches, and through forests. They are ubiquitous, persistent, ugly, and unhealthy. These are plastic products you should reject at every opportunity, opting for better alternatives whenever possible.

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