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Plastics: The History of an Ecological Crisis
The Earth Day Network has announced that this year's Earth Day, on Sunday, April 22, will focus on ending plastic pollution by Earth Day 2020, the 50th anniversary of the world's first Earth Day in 1970, which led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the passage of the Clean Water, Clean Air and Endangered Species Acts.
Now, the Earth Day Network seeks to remain true to its legacy by initiating another major clean-up job. As the Earth Day Network points out in its petition to end plastic pollution, 300 million tons of plastic are sold each year, and 90 percent of that is thrown away, ending up in landfills, in the oceans and in our bodies.
In honor of this worthy goal, EcoWatch has put together a brief history of the problem, and of the growing effort to combat it.
Plastic Pollution: A History
1862: Alexander Parkes demonstrates the first man-made plastic at the Great International Exhibition in London. Parkesine, as he dubbed it, was made from cellulose.
1907: Leo Baekeland develops Bakelite, the first synthetic, fossil-fuel based plastic made from phenol (a coal waste-product) and formaldehyde.
A telephone made from Bakelite, the first synthetic plastic. Tangerineduel
1946: The first National Plastics Exhibition opens in New York City to showcase all the new consumer uses for the plastics developed to aid in World War II. During the war, plastic production had increased nearly four-fold.
Early 1970s: Reports published in Science about the prevalence of plastic pellets in the North Atlantic lead to more research into the prevalence of plastic on the seafloor and its impact on marine animals.
1979: Plastic grocery bags are introduced in the U.S.
1980: Woodbury, New Jersey becomes the first U.S. city to adopt a curbside recycling program following litter awareness-campaigns in the 1960s and 1970s.
A 1970s recycling poster.Library of Congress
1990s: Widespread use of plastic microbeads in cosmetics begins.
1997: Charles Moore discovers the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the world's largest collection of floating garbage, when sailing home to Los Angeles.
2007: San Francisco becomes the first U.S. city to institute a plastic bag ban.
2008: A government study confirms that Bisphenol A, a chemical used to manufacture hard plastic bottles and the lining of baby-formula cans, may increase risks of early puberty, breast cancer, prostate issues and behavioral problems.
2014: The Netherlands becomes the first country to ban microbeads in cosmetics.
2017: The BBC's Blue Planet II increases global concern about ocean plastics with striking footage of how they impact ocean animals.
An albatross corpse filled with plastic. Chris Jordan / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters / CC BY 2.0
2018: The Earth Day Network focuses Earth Day on ending plastic pollution by 2020.
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‘Companies Should Not Be Allowed to Use Hazardous Ingredients in Products People Use’: Michelle Pfeiffer Speaks Up for Safer Cosmetics
The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.
Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.
The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.
By Julia Conley
Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.
The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.
President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.
"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.