According to a study by the World Economic Forum:

Every minute, one garbage truck of plastic is dumped into our oceans.

Plastic garbage floating in water.

Most of the plastic pollution in the oceans starts out on land and is manufactured by man.

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Have you ever wondered how this might affect the people and communities where plastic is mined from the earth, produced, or recycled? 

What's the link between plastic production & social justice?

Plastic pollution is a threat to humans and animals alike. It's a major contributor to both social and environmental injustice.

Image of plastic garbage floating in the ocean Photo by Naja Bertolt Jensen on Unsplash

Some ways plastic pollution affects marginalized communities include:

  • contamination of drinking water by fracking operations to extract natural gas

  • the displacement of Indigenous peoples and deforestation of their lands to conduct oil drilling and roadways development

  • shipping of plastic waste by developed countries to developing countries with poor waste management

1. Did you know plastics are made from fossil fuels?

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The oil and gas that goes into plastics comes from environmentally destructive processes.

For example, natural gas is drilled to the Earth's surface in a toxic process known as fracking. Fracking releases hazardous chemicals into groundwater,causing contamination in the surrounding environment, often pushing people of color out of their communities.

Aerial view of the tar sands in Alberta CC BY 2.0

Another example isthe tar sands, a vast area of oil fields and mines in Alberta. Forests and wetlands have been stripped away, and waterways rerouted to make way for the tar sands. The tar sands run through and surround the traditional lands of Indigenous communities without their consent.

Quiz

Fracking, oil extraction, and mining often happen:

2. Did you know plastic production is highly toxic?

A factory on a river, with smoke coming out of stacks Photo by ETA+ on Unsplash

Flaticon Icon "Cancer Alley" is the name given to a stretch of land along the Mississippi River, in the USA. It has over 150 petrochemical plants and refineries. The population that lives and works there is primarily Black and Latino and there is an abnormally high concentration of cancer among them.

Flaticon Icon Similarly, in Canada, the "Chemical Valley" around Sarnia, Ontario has the worst examples of environmental racism. The Aamjiwnaang First Nations are entirely surrounded by toxic industries and pollution and the negative health impacts are clear.

3. Did you know plastic waste is shipped to other countries?

pile of materials prepared for recycling Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

The US, Canada, and many European nations produce more waste than they can recycle at home.

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As a result, recycling is shipped to small countries like Indonesia, Vietnam, and Malaysia that accept the materials and process them for a fee.

They don't have a system to manage all this waste that floods their little islands.

The piling waste and burning plastic dumps seriously affect people living in these communities because toxic gases are released into the air as plastic burns.

Take Action

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The first step to bringing change and social justice is to create awareness!

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This Byte has been authored by

AF

Amina Farah

Instructional Designer