Earth Day 2024: Planet Vs. Plastics and What You Need To Know

Every year since 1970, Earth Day has been celebrated as a way to commemorate the environmental protection movement and to bring attention to pollution, conservation, and sustainability-related issues.

The theme of Earth Day 2024 is “Planet vs. Plastics.” This year, is calling for a 60% reduction in global plastic production by 2024. This is their “60 X 40” campaign.

Plastics pose a wide range of environmental, health and atmospheric risks.

When plastic enters any environment through improper disposal (littering, dumping, etc.), it can be ingested by animals, inhibit productivity, and even lead to issues such as suffocation/entanglement for various species.

And once it enters, it’s hard to get rid of it. About half of all plastic ever produced has been produced in the past 13 years. Currently, there is a floating body of plastic in the Pacific Ocean twice the size of Texas. By 2050, there may be more plastic by weight in the ocean than fish.

Based on figures from the World Economic Forum, plastic bottles can take up to 450 years to decompose, while plastic beverage holders can take 400 years. The biggest offenders, fishing lines, can take 600 years.

As more plastic enters marine and terrestrial ecosystems, more critical species will ingest it. They can die, putting a strain on existing ecosystems.

Species at the bottom of the food chain will eat plastics and microplastics first. These species are then eaten by successive species before being consumed by humans. The microplastics still remain up to this level, and the health risks they pose are urgent.

Plastics and microplastics can also result in ailments such as endocrine disruption, weight gain, infertility, and cancer, according to the United Nations.

According to, chemicals in plastics cost $250 billion in health-related expenses nationally. This is from ingesting microplastics, absorbing, and breathing.

This year, there is an extended report available on the health risks posed to babies and children.

Plastic production is also a contributor to the release of greenhouse gases and climate change. Fossil fuels are used in the production, refinement, and transportation processes that involve single-use plastics.

According to the University of Colorado Boulder, plastic refinement releases about 200 million metric tons of greenhouse gases each year. Transportation and extraction-related processes account for another 10 million metric tons.

Despite the bleak picture, there are several solutions.

On a personal level, using reusable water bottles and reusing plastic ones can help. Using less plastic utensils and Tupperware can also make a difference, as can incorporating reusable bags.

Taking inventory at home of what plastics one uses and identifying ways to reduce use can help not only oneself reduce plastic use, but their families and friends.

Knowing what and how to recycle is also beneficial. If items end up in the wrong place, the environmental consequences can be bad.

On a larger scale, encourages people to sign a petition urging the United Nations and their governments to act to curb plastic production. The organization offers several other solutions.

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