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ASU scientists warn plastic pollution will only increase

A coal-fired power plant in Wyoming. (AP Photo/J. David Ake, File)

PHOENIX — A new study by Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences found that the amount of plastic pollution will continue to outpace its reduction well into the future.

The study found that the amount of plastics and microplastics that have been produced, combined with China’s decision to stop accepting most plastic recyclables in 2018, leaves countries like the United States with a ebbing issue regarding the increase in plastic pollution.

ASU’s study found that unless countries commit to aggressive steps, plastic pollution may increase by more than six times its current level by 2030.

ASU professor Leah Gerber led the research effort, mapping future outcomes needed to reach a global goal of less than 8 million metric tons of plastic, which is the current amount leaching into the world’s oceans, lakes and rivers today.

Gerber, in a press release, said that the world’s focus on cleaning up plastic pollution does not go far enough, as there needs to be a gross reduction in the amount of plastic produced to reduce the substance’s impact on the earth.

“There’s a lot of popular attention toward cleanup, but there hasn’t been as much attention to the fact that we’re still producing large quantities of plastic,” Gerber said in a release. “And where there’s not good infrastructure, that plastic is making its way into marine and aquatic habitats.”

Gerber and her teammates found that in order to see a meaningful reduction in plastic pollution, politicians need to pass substantive measures to reduce or eliminate all unnecessary plastic production, to go with finding new ways to process and recycle existing plastics.

“In the U.S. we’re huge consumers of single-use plastic,” Gerber said in a release. “I’m hopeful that our findings will get people to rethink these consumption patterns. Even here in Arizona, the choices we make impact the future of our oceans.”

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