The environmental damage that plastic waste causes has become a global problem. Steps to address the issue are now being taken worldwide, with a reduction in non-biodegradable plastics a key goal. But how close is science to offering us viable solutions?
On 3 May, the Royal Institution played host to an informative and diverse discussion on the topic of plastic pollution at a how to: Academy event moderated by The New York Times and sponsored by Rathbones.
In 2017, US researchers1 estimated that 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic waste has been generated globally since the 1950s, of which almost 80% has accumulated in landfills or the natural environment. Significant volumes of this waste enter marine environments, much of it fragmented into microplastic particles that are difficult to retrieve and can be ingested by fish, birds and other marine life. Combined with the potential for larger pieces of plastic waste to entangle animals, the risks for marine ecosystems are clear.