GOOD

America burns more of its used plastic than it recycles and it’s turning our planet into a trash fire.

This needs to stop.

Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

We have a plastics problem. Since the 1950s, 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced. Yes, that’s billion with a “b.” But it isn’t just the production of plastic that’s the problem. It’s also the disposal of plastic. Whatever you do, don’t burn plastic.


A report by Tearfund, Fauna & Flora International, WasteAid and The Institute of Development Studies found that plastic is burned at an alarming rate in low- and middle-income countries. Every second, a double-decker busload of plastic is burned or dumped around the world. This adds up to 70 million metric tons of burned or dumped plastic each and every year. Lower income countries who don’t have the infrastructure to recycle burn plastic at a higher rate. Furthermore, some people burn plastic at home, which is both dangerous and dumb.

But the plastic problem starts on U.S. soil. 12% of plastic in the U.S. is burned, and only 9% is recycled. A majority of plastic trash produced in the U.S. is shipped to other countries, where it can end up in unregulated or illegal disposable processes. Unfortunately, this means that U.S. plastic trash is also getting burned in ways that release harmful toxins into the air.

LIU JIN/AFP/Getty Images

Incinerating plastic trash can contribute to air pollution. It can release dioxins, furans, mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (BCPs) into the atmosphere. The chemicals released by burning bags have been linked to heart disease, headache, nausea, rashes and damage to the kidney, liver and nervous system. Because burning plastic can have such a negative impact on the air we breathe, it’s not surprising the United Nations voted to list plastic as a hazardous waste material.

Interestingly, plastic bag bans do more than force people to buy canvas bags at Trader Joe’s. Plastic bag bans can actually reduce the amount of plastic that is burned. Many plastic bags get mixed up with other trash, where it is the incinerated. Less plastic bags in circulation means there are less plastic bags to make their way into places they don’t belong.

Plastics have already turned our oceans into nests of trash and made their way into the digestive systems of animals. Turns out, they’re also funking up the air we breathe. We didn’t really need another reason to give up plastics, but we’ve got one.

Articles
NHM Vienna/Hans Reschreiter

Wealth inequality has been a hot topic of discussion as of late, but it's something that's occurred all throughout history. Class structure is a complicated issue, especially when you consider that haves and have nots have been in existence for over 4,000 years.

A study published in Science took a look at over 100 late Neolithic and early Bronze Age skeletons found in a burial site in southern Germany. The study "shed light on the complexity of social status, inheritance rules, and mobility during the Bronze Age." Partly by looking at their teeth and the artifacts they were buried with, researchers were able to discover that wealth inequality existed almost 4,000 years ago. "Our results reveal that individual households lasting several generations consisted of a high-status core family and unrelated low-status individuals, a social organization accompanied by patrilocality and female exogamy, and the stability of this system over 700 years," the study said.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

Climate change means our future is uncertain, but in the meantime, it's telling us a lot about our past. The Earth's glaciers are melting at an alarming rate, but as the ice dwindles, ancient artifacts are being uncovered. The Secrets of the Ice project has been surveying the glaciers on Norway's highest mountains in Oppland since 2011. They have found a slew of treasures, frozen in time and ice, making glacier archeologists, as Lars Pilø, co-director of Secrets of the Ice, put it when talking to CNN, the "unlikely beneficiaries of global warming."

Instead of digging, glacier archeologists survey the areas of melting ice, seeing which artifacts have been revealed by the thaw. "It's a very different world from regular archaeological sites," Pilø told National Geographic. "It's really rewarding work.

Keep Reading Show less

When former Pittsburgh Steelers' center Mike Webster committed suicide in 2002, his death began to raise awareness of the brain damage experienced by NFL football players. A 2017 study found that 99% of deceased NFL players had a degenerative brain disease known as CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Only one out of 111 former football players had no sign of CTE. It turns out, some of the risks of traumatic brain injury experienced by heavily padded adults playing at a professional level also exist for kids with developing brains playing at a recreational level. The dangers might not be as intense as what the adults go through, but it can have some major life-long consequences.

A new PSA put out by the Concussion Legacy Foundation raises awareness of the dangers of tackle football on developing brains, comparing it to smoking. "Tackle football is like smoking. The younger I start, the longer I am exposed to danger. You wouldn't let me smoke. When should I start tackling?" a child's voice can be heard saying in the PSA as a mother lights up a cigarette for her young son.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

On Tuesday morning, President Trump tweeted about some favorable economic numbers, claiming that annual household income is up, unemployment is low, and housing prices are high.

Now, just imagine how much better those numbers would be if the country wasn't mired in an economy-killing trade war with China, bleeding out trillion-dollar-a-year debts, and didn't suffer from chaotic leadership in the Oval Office?

At the end of tweet, came an odd sentence, "Impeach the Pres."

Keep Reading Show less
Politics

October is domestic violence awareness month and when most people think of domestic violence, they imagine mostly female victims. However, abuse of men happens as well – in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. But some are taking it upon themselves to change all that.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture