It's not well known, but organic farmers – like their conventional farming neighbors – depend on plastic to grow a lot of produce. "It's spread over the ground as a form of mulch to suppress weeds, conserve water and aid plant growth," reports Lisa Elaine Held in FERN's latest story, produced in collaboration with NPR's The Salt.
Coca-Cola upped its production of plastic drink bottles by more than a billion between 2015 and 2016, bringing the total number of bottles manufactured during that time to 110 billion, according to an analysis by Greenpeace. Coca-Cola, which is responsible for more plastic bottles than any other company, said in July that it intended to increase the amount of recycled plastic in its bottles to 50 percent by 2020, reports The Guardian.
Sea salt from around the world is often contaminated with microplastics, according to several studies that examined sea salt in the UK, France, Spain, China and the U.S. “Researchers believe the majority of the contamination comes from microfibres and single-use plastics such as water bottles, items that comprise the majority of plastic waste,” says The Guardian, adding that the United Nations estimates that one garbage truck’s worth of plastic is dumped into the ocean every minute.
Not only are tiny plastic particles showing up in the fish we eat, but they’re in nearly all the tap water we drink, says an investigation by Orb Media. The research examined samples from around the world, and 83 percent of them contained microplastics.
To boost food production, China has spread polyethylene film across 49 million acres — 12 percent of the country’s total farmland — despite warnings that the synthetic mulch is toxic and degrades the soil.
Kenya has passed the strictest plastic bag ban in the world, punishing anyone who sells or uses plastic bags with four years in prison or a $40,000 fine. Proponents of the law say that marine animals often end up strangled by or ingesting plastic. “If we continue like this, by 2050, we will have more plastic in the ocean than fish,” said Habib El-Habr, an expert on ocean trash working with Kenya’s UN environment program.
Farmers in Wisconsin and Minnesota produce around 60-80 million pounds of plastic every year, from bags to hold silage to tunnels that protect crops. But in the past two years, thousands of farmers in the two states have joined a program run by Arkansas-based Revolution Plastics to recycle their plastic waste.
The world started paying attention to the problem of plastic trash in the ocean when seabirds turned up with plastic rings from six-packs of beer twisted about their necks. Now researchers say tiny bits of degraded plastic are showing up in fish and shellfish at the grocery store, says CBC News.
France is now the first country in the world to ban plastic cups, plates and utensils, says the Washington Post. The countrywide rule will go into effect in 2020. "The new law is a part of the country’s Energy Transition for Green Growth Act, the same legislation that also outlawed plastic bags in grocery stores and markets beginning in July."
Researchers at the USDA have developed a new food-packaging material made out of milk-protein (i.e. casein) that is both biodegradable and edible, says EurekAlert. Compared to petroleum-based plastics, the casein-based packaging is 500 times more effective at keeping out oxygen, which could dramatically reduce food waste from spoilage.