Gilbert-based Footprint Foundation asks people to eliminate single-use plastics
PHOENIX — A study from the World Economic Forum in 2016 predicted that pound for pound by 2050 there would be more plastic in our oceans than fish.
While plastic production has mostly gone up since then, there’s more awareness than ever to find ways around reliance on the material.
Enter Pledge 2050, an incentive and partnership with the Gilbert-based Footprint Foundation.
More than 3,000 people have signed the pledge since 2014, resulting in 34,000 metric tons of carbon emissions and 61 million pounds of plastic being eliminated from circulation.
Christine Figgener has served as the director of science and education for Footprint since 2020. For her, the pledge is a reminder of just how prevalent plastic is in people’s lives.
“You’re thinking about a plastic straw, your grocery bag, your plastic cutlery,” she said. “All of those items are only used while you’re doing what you’re doing, and then they stay in our environment for literally hundreds of years.”
A water bottle will take an average of around 450 years to completely decompose, and that number depends on what the product is.
Plastics decompose through a process called “photodegradation,” where solar radiation gradually breaks down the polymers that give plastics their shape.
But beyond the problem of storing plastics, another equally dangerous problem is becoming apparent: microplastics.
As plastics break down, they flake off and those tiny particles wind up in the oceans, the soil, and even in food.
Last month, a study in Environmental International confirmed the presence of microplastics in human blood for the first time.
“We are eating plastic on a regular basis,” Figgener said. Those are fireproof, those are PFAs [perfluoroalkoxy alkalines].
“Those are known to be not healthy for humans, that cause cancers and other diseases. We’re only really starting to understand all the health impacts that plastic can have.”
Figgener says she hopes Pledge 2050 will gain momentum globally, not just in reducing single-use plastics but in changing how people talk about environmental policy.
“A lot of times, it’s not about people not wanting to make a change, it’s just not recognizing the harm,” Figgener said.
That cumulative change can put pressure on supermarkets to provide different products, on governments to speed along certain laws. Hopefully, this is just the beginning.”