Defining the System of Plastic Pollution

Our global plastic pollution problem has 5 primary facets:

1. Waste

Over 300 million pounds of plastics are produced each year.¹ According to the EPA, only 9% of plastics in the US are recycled each year.²

2. Toxicity

Endocrine disruptors (BP-A, BP-S, BP-C, BP-B, etc.), contained in all consumer plastics, linked to increased risk for:

  • breast and prostate cancer
  • obesity & early-onset puberty
  • cardiovascular disease
  • cognitive developmental delay
  • metabolic disorders & diabetes
  • reproductive & sexual dysfunction
  • decreased birthweight³

3. Climate Change

Plastic is made of petroleum, a valuable but non-renewable & harmful fossil fuel.⁴

4. Social Injustice

Fenceline communities, countries of the Global South, and communities of color are impacted most dramatically by single-use plastic at all stages of its lifecycle, often being directly targeted because of their limited voice and access.⁵

5. Externalities

Plastic pollution extends beyond borders and across sectors.⁶



  1. Gourmelon, Gaelle. “Global Plastic Production Rises, Recycling Lags”. VitalSigns. Worldwatch Institute, 2015.
  2. “Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: 2014 Fact Sheet”. United States Environmental Protection Agency, November 2016. p. 8. <>
  3. Vom Saal, F and Hughes, C. “An Extensive New Literature Concerning Low-Dose Effects of Bisphenol A Shows the Need for a New Risk Assessment”. Environmental Science Perspectives, 2005 (Vol. 113, No. 8). Pp. 926-933.
  4. Gourmelon, Gaelle. “Global Plastic Production Rises, Recycling Lags.” VitalSigns. Worldwatch Institute, 2015.
  5. Graham, JD et al. “Who lives near coke plants and oil refineries An exploration of the environmental inequity hypothesis”. Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, 1999 (Vol 92, Issue 2).
  6. Jambeck, Jenna et al. “Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean”. Science, 2015 (Vol. 347, Issue 6223). pp. 768-771.

Additional Resources:

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