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A seal trapped in plastic pollution. Nels Israelson / Flickr

Oil Giants Invest $180B in Plastics, Propelling Oceans Toward 'Near-Permanent' Pollution

By Julia Conley

Scientists and environmental protection advocates are warning that a coming plastics boom could lead to a permanent state of pollution on the planet—and denouncing the fossil fuel industry for driving an increase in plastics production amid all that's known about the material polluting the world's oceans.

"We could be locking in decades of expanded plastics production at precisely the time the world is realizing we should use far less of it," Carroll Muffett, president of the Center for International Environmental Law (CEIL), told the Guardian. The CEIL has compiled several reports about the plastics industry since September.


The American Chemistry Council, a trade organization, has acknowledged that fossil fuel companies including Exxon and Shell Chemical have poured more than $180 billion into the creation of plastics facilities that are expected to create a 40 percent rise in production of the material over the next decade.

The rise in shale gas exploration in recent years has caused the price of natural gas liquids, used to make plastic, to drop significantly, causing companies to begin more than 300 plastics production projects since 2010.

"Around 99 percent of the feedstock for plastics is fossil fuels, so we are looking at the same companies ... that have helped create the climate crisis," said Muffett. "There is a deep and pervasive relationship between oil and gas companies and plastics."

The report follows the CEIL's recent study, released earlier this month, which showed that the plastics industry has known its products were polluting the world's oceans since the 1970s and has spent decades fighting regulations that aim to keep the crisis from getting worse.

"We are already producing more disposable plastic than we can deal with, more in the last decade than in the entire twentieth century, and millions of tons of it are ending up in our oceans," Louise Edge, senior oceans campaigner for Greenpeace UK, told the Guardian.

Another study by researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara, published earlier this year, warned that excessive plastic production could lead to "near-permanent contamination" of the earth since the material is not biodegradable.

The CEIL warns that the rise in plastics will prove that research correct in the coming decades.

"All this buildout, if allowed to proceed, will flood the global market with even more disposable, unmanageable plastic for decades to come," predicted Steven Feit, an attorney with CEIL.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

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A warming climate and expanding industrial fishing threaten the Antarctic Ocean and its iconic creatures such as penguins. Antarctica Bound / Flickr

Campaign to Create World's Largest Sanctuary in Antarctic Ocean Gains Momentum

Greenpeace's ship Arctic Sunrise is on its way to Antarctica, where the crew on board will be the first humans ever to visit the seafloor in the Weddell Sea.

The three-month expedition will aim to further the case for a massive ocean sanctuary.

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Nearly all dairy cows live in factory farms, which make up 99 percent of farms, and they spend their lives almost entirely indoors. Shutterstock

Don't Be Fooled by These 5 Misleading Dairy Ads

By Rachel Krantz

For most of my life, I genuinely believed the false advertising used to sell dairy. When I learned the truth—that nearly all cows used for dairy are kept inside, locked up, forcibly inseminated, and hooked up to painful milking machines—I was heartbroken. How had I never put two and two together: that for humans to consume cow's milk, mother cows must have their calves taken?

I had been duped by dairy brands, whose misleading ads have never been regulated, despite truth-in-advertising laws. This discrepancy prompted a 2003 lawsuit involving the "Happy Cows" campaign, but the case was thrown out over a technicality. "The state's false advertising law simply doesn't apply to the government," explained Mercy For Animals lawyer Rachel Faulkner. The 'Happy Cow' ads were run by the California Milk Advisory Board, a marketing arm of the California Food and Agriculture Department.

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The Story Behind the Beauty Industry’s Most Eco-Friendly Packaging

By Annie Tomlin

Here's a sobering fact: The average American generates 4.4 pounds of trash daily, a whopping 30 percent of it packaging. Some people might read that statistic and vow to be stricter about recycling. Julie Corbett took things a tad further.

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New Film Deftly Indicts Public Health Regulators

By Katie O'Reilly

It started with a text from Mom. In January 2014, documentarian Cullen Hoback received word from his mother that a chemical spill had left 300,000 West Virginians living in a swath of coal country known as "Chemical Valley"—so dubbed because it houses the nation's largest concentration of chemical plants—with foul-smelling drinking water. The source was a rusting tank owned by a chemical company with the you-can't-make-this-stuff-up name of Freedom Industries, and the substance leaking into Chemical Valley's waterways was MCHM, a detergent from coal.

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America Needs a Plastics Intervention. Now’s the Time.

By Jeff Turrentine

Deep in our hearts, we know that the global addiction to plastic is wholly unsustainable. It's why so many of us make a real effort to significantly curtail our use of plastic bottles and bags, clamshell packaging, straws, disposable utensils and the like.

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Iranian Tanker Leaves Massive Oil Slick, Worries Mount Over Environmental Damage

Experts have expressed concern about the potential environmental aftermath of a stricken Iranian oil tanker that exploded and sank in the East China Sea on Sunday.

The Sanchi—carrying 150,000 tons, or nearly 1 million barrels, of condensate oil—collided with the CF Crystal on Jan 6. The tanker caught fire and burned for more than a week before sinking. Iranian officials said all 32 crew members on the tanker were killed.

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Norway Is Banning Fur Farming

By Conor Sneyd

Norway is introducing a total ban on fur farming, according to a statement released by the Norwegian animal rights organization NOAH this weekend. The country is currently home to 300 fur farms, which breed and kill 700,000 minks and 110,000 foxes every year, so this is truly a massive victory for animals.

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‘I’m Freezing and Shaking’: China’s Winter Heating Crisis, Mapped

By Emma Howard

While people in Beijing enjoyed the benefits of a record air pollution drop this winter, those in the provinces were left unable to keep warm, cook or sleep for lack of heating.

Reports on the heating crisis that was triggered by the government's anti-pollution drive have largely focused on the areas surrounding Beijing, but mapping of social media data by Unearthed now shows that people were complaining of the cold more than 1,000 kilometers (approximately 621 miles) away.

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