The Story of Plastic
The Story of Plastic
We think we know the end of the story... but that's only the beginning.
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Chemical plants for the production of plastic feedstocks dominate the landscape of West Houston.

Chemical plants for the production of plastic feedstocks dominate the landscape of West Houston.

Emissions from the plants that produce plastic and chemical components cause serious health impacts for surrounding communities.

Emissions from the plants that produce plastic and chemical components cause serious health impacts for surrounding communities.

Plastic pollutes at every step

Long before it reaches the environment, plastic harms people and the planet. Our plastic obsession has serious consequences from production to disposal.

Plastics are treated as a product that miraculously appears from nowhere and goes to nowhere. Few of us think about where our plastic comes from or where it ends up after we throw it “away.” In reality, plastic causes serious problems at every stage of its life.

Plastic begins as fossil fuels like oil and natural gas. That means that the health and climate impacts of oil and gas extraction and transportation¹ are also part of the lifecycle of plastic. Next, these fuels are converted into the chemical ingredients for plastic at plants that release a slew of toxic emissions into the communities in which they are built² – resulting in higher rates of asthma, cancer, and other conditions³.

Many of the plastics we interact with include other chemical additives or coatings. These additives can leach out of plastic and into humans, causing even more health consequences⁴.

Ultimately, a small percentage of plastic gets recycled. The rest ends up in landfills, in the environment, or being burned. Whether on land or in the ocean, plastic pollution threatens the stability and biodiversity of whole ecosystems, from the top⁵ to the bottom of the food chain⁶.

¹ “Fracking Fumes: Air Pollution from Hydraulic Fracturing Threatens Public Health and Communities.” National Resource Defense Council, December 2014

² “Ethane Cracker Plants: What Are They?” Climate Reality Project, October 23 2018

³ “Increased cancers among residents living in the neighborhood of a petrochemical complex: A 12-year retrospective cohort study.” International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health: Volume 221, Issue 2, March 2018.

⁴ “Adverse Health Effects of Plastics.” Ecology Center, accessed January 2019.

⁵ “1,000 Pieces of Plastic Found Inside Dead Whale in Indonesia” New York Times, November 21 2018.

⁶ “Shocking extent of plastic pollution: Microscopic photos show how plankton consume tiny toxic microfibres that could devastate the ecosytem” Daily Mail, April 18 2017.


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