In our latest interview series Leaders in Sustainability, principal and founder, Tony Defazio, sits down with industry leaders to learn more about the leading climate issues and technologies to keep you informed of the latest sustainability initiatives and developments.

For our series kickoff, Tony sat down with Judith Enck, president, and founder of Beyond Plastics, who shared with us the “need-to-knows” of plastic pollution.

Three Things You Need to Know About Plastic Pollution

  1. Plastic pollution is not just a waste problem, it is a climate problem. Historically, our understanding of plastic pollution has been limited to its ever-present waste accumulation–plastic bags caught in trees, marine life swimming amongst detergent bottles and soda rings, and water bottles and takeout containers littering roadsides. But we often forget the environmental impacts of the fossil fuels used to both create virgin plastics and to fuel the manufacturing processes of production. According to the Center for International Environmental Law greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of plastics account for 850 million metric tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere—equal to the emissions from 189 five-hundred-megawatt coal power plants (Plastics & Climate).
  1. Chemical recycling is not a solution to the problem. The proprietary advanced chemical recycling processes that are touted by companies receiving major backing from big oil companies are false solutions to plastic pollution. The technologies do not work and are only profitable with significant tax-payer subsidies. In addition, many advanced recycling facilities are circumventing important environmental regulations by advocating and lobbying for reclassification as manufacturing facilities, which have far less environmental regulations placed upon them.
  1. Reducing the use of plastic is the only viable solution to plastic pollution. And reduction of any sizeable impact needs to be driven by state and federal policies. “Companies have had years to reduce their use of plastics, but have made little effort on their own,” said Enck. She compares the necessary policies to be equivalent to the fuel efficiency standards placed on automotive manufacturers, calling for a 50% reduction in plastic production across the board. Once policies are set into motion to reduce our society’s plastic production, there will be investments made in infrastructure promoting refill and reuse helping us to further reduce our waste.

Beyond Plastics is a nationwide project established in 2019 with a mission to end all plastic pollution. The grassroots movement employs advocacy efforts to create momentum to shift public policies to create institutional, economic, and environmental changes that reduce the utilization of plastics.

Learn more about Beyond Plastics’ fight against plastic pollution here.

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