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The Plastic Crisis

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The Plastic Crisis

After years of largely neglecting the buildup of plastic waste in Earth’s environment, the U.N. Environment Assembly will meet in February and March in the hopes of drafting the first international treaty controlling global plastics pollution.

 

Discarded plastic is currently killing marine life, threatening food security, contributing to climate change, damaging economies, and dissolving into microplastics that contaminate land, water, the atmosphere and even the human bloodstream.

 

The U.N. parties will debate how comprehensive the treaty they write will be: Should it, for example, protect just the oceans or the whole planet? Should it focus mainly on reuse/recycling, or control plastics manufacture and every step of the supply chain and waste stream?

Perhaps one of the starkest impacts on marine life is the phenomenon of "ghost fishing." Most large debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is made up of inexpensive fishing nets. Ghost fishing happens when these discarded nets continue to "catch" marine life—suffocating marine mammals such as this endangered Hawaiian monk seal.

Perhaps one of the starkest impacts on marine life is the phenomenon of "ghost fishing." Most large debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is made up of inexpensive fishing nets. Ghost fishing happens when these discarded nets continue to "catch" marine life—suffocating marine mammals such as this endangered Hawaiian monk seal.

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