Earlier this month, a new report published in the journal Nature showed that the weight of human-made material—like concrete, asphalt, and plastic—on Earth now exceeds all living biomass.
Researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, who conducted the analysis, write that on average, for each person on the globe, “anthropogenic mass” equal to more than his or her body weight is produced every week. The study also found that the total amount of plastic on the planet alone—and this includes both the plastic in use as well as plastic waste—is more than the combined mass of all animals.
The covid-19 pandemic has, quite simply, made the situation more critical. There has been an explosion in the amount of plastic waste in oceans. Be it single-use face masks, gloves or protection kits, plastic is more in demand than it has ever been, but it is also a ticking environmental time bomb. Fortunately, there are also solutions and innovators that are looking at slowly tackling plastic pollution. Here are four podcasts and episodes that feature some of these stories.
Plastisphere: German independent radio journalist Anja Krieger’s work on the dynamics between plastic, people and the planet is perhaps one of the most comprehensive podcasts on this burning topic. Krieger started Plastisphere in September 2018, with a deep dive into what she had learnt about plastic pollution. In that episode, she also featured the infamous Kamilo beach on the Big Island of Hawaii. On Hawaii’s south-east coast, Kamilo is considered one of the most plastic-polluted spots in the world. Over the past two years, Krieger’s podcast has explored a variety of subjects, from the history of plastic pollution to the confusion around bioplastics, touted as more environmentally friendly.
The Indisposable Podcast: A production of the UPSTREAM Policy Institute, a non-profit, this podcast looks at efforts to tackle plastic pollution. The episodes feature experts from the zero- waste movement, as well as people who are revolutionising the reuse culture. Some of the episodes also address critical topics like single-use plastics, which make up a huge chunk of plastic waste.
Listening to the simpler solutions—like the episode on UC Berkeley and UCLA’s plans to ban single-use plastics from their campuses and take a stand against the throwaway culture—tells you that some of the answers to might just lie in changing consumer behaviour.
The Zero Waste Countdown Podcast: Hosted by former Canadian naval officer Laura Nash, the Zero Waste Countdown (ZWC) Podcast features conversations with zero-waste experts from around the world, including scientists, researchers and innovators. Its episodes bring home the far-reaching impacts of plastic pollution. One recent episode sees Nash in conversation with Denise Hardesty, a principal research scientist at CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) Oceans & Atmosphere, based in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. Hardesty, who has conducted extensive research on the effects of marine plastic debris, discusses what happens when certain marine animals end up consuming plastic.
Postcards from the 6th Mass Extinction featuring ‘The Dark Side of the Plastic Age’: This is the 10th part of an audio series, Postcards from the 6th Mass Extinction, where John Rafferty, editor of Earth and life sciences at Encyclopædia Britannica, speaks to Chelsea Rochman of the University of Toronto, and author Rebecca Altman to examine the chemistry of plastic and plastic pollution and the social history of plastic use. The episode explores what makes plastic so irresistible and how it affects different species in the environment. Essentially, what happens when the usefulness of plastic ends. Unlike other material, plastic never breaks down completely to be absorbed by ecosystems. Rafferty, along with the two guest experts, looks at how the “usefulness” of plastic comes at a grave cost.