The Plastic Tide NPR explores one of the most important issues of our time: plastic waste in our environment.
Special Series

The Plastic Tide

exploring plastic waste in our environment

Trash sent for recycling moves along a conveyor belt to be sorted at Waste Management's material recovery facility in Elkridge, Md. In 2018, China announced it would no longer buy most plastic waste from places like the United States. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. Recycling Industry Is Struggling To Figure Out A Future Without China

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A discarded plastic bottle lies on the beach at Sandy Hook, N.J. Packaging is the largest source of the plastic waste that now blankets our planet. Wayne Parry/AP hide caption

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Wayne Parry/AP

Plastics Or People? At Least 1 Of Them Has To Change To Clean Up Our Mess

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By one estimate, emissions from producing and incinerating plastics could amount to 56 gigatons of carbon — almost 50 times the annual emissions of all of the coal power plants in the U.S. — between now and 2050. Koji Sasahara/AP hide caption

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Koji Sasahara/AP

Plastic Has A Big Carbon Footprint — But That Isn't The Whole Story

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Anne Schauer-Gimenez (from left) Allison Pieja and Molly Morse of Mango Materials stand next to the biopolymer fermenter at a sewage treatment plant next to San Francisco Bay. The fermenter feeds bacteria the methane they need to produce a biological form of plastic. Chris Joyce/NPR hide caption

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Chris Joyce/NPR

Replacing Plastic: Can Bacteria Help Us Break The Habit?

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Lettuce sprouts amid rows of plastic covering the ground at One Straw Farm, an organic operation north of Baltimore. Although conventional farmers also use plastic mulch, organic produce farms like One Straw rely on the material even more because they must avoid chemical weed killers, which are banned in organic farming. Lisa Elaine Held/NPR hide caption

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Lisa Elaine Held/NPR

The deep ocean is filled with sea creatures like giant larvaceans. They're actually the size of tadpoles, but they're surrounded by a yard-wide bubble of mucus that collects food — and plastic. Courtesy of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute hide caption

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Courtesy of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Microplastics Have Invaded The Deep Ocean — And The Food Chain

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Debris blankets the north side of one of the Cocos Keeling Islands in the Indian Ocean. Researchers found a huge amount of plastic both onshore and buried in the sand. Courtesy of Silke Stuckenbrock hide caption

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Courtesy of Silke Stuckenbrock

Remote Island Chain Has Few People — But Hundreds Of Millions Of Pieces Of Plastic

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A team of researchers found a surprisingly large amount of microplastic in the air in the Pyrenees mountains in southern France. VW Pics/UIG via Getty Images hide caption

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VW Pics/UIG via Getty Images

Microplastic Found Even In The Air In France's Pyrenees Mountains

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The U.S. used to ship about 7 million tons of plastic trash to China a year, where much of it was recycled into raw materials. Then came the Chinese crackdown of 2018. Olivia Sun/NPR hide caption

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Olivia Sun/NPR

Where Will Your Plastic Trash Go Now That China Doesn't Want It?

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Around the globe, people are searching for ways to reduce plastic waste. Above: Dampalit, a fishing community in Manila Bay, can't keep up with a constant influx of trash. Jes Aznar for NPR hide caption

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Jes Aznar for NPR

Teenage sisters Melati and Isabel Wijsen of Bali have received many honors for their efforts to ban plastic bags. Above: They accept the 2017 "Award for Our Earth" from Germany's Bambi Awards. Alexander Koerner/Getty Images hide caption

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Alexander Koerner/Getty Images

How Teenage Sisters Pushed Bali To Say 'Bye-Bye' To Plastic Bags

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A curious harbor seal checks out diver Mike Weber as he and other divers pick up golf balls in the waters off the coast of Northern California. His daughter wrote a paper about all the golf balls found in the ocean from nearby golf courses. Courtesy of Alex Weber hide caption

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Courtesy of Alex Weber

Teenage Diver Finds Tons Of Golf Balls Rotting Off California

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Movement To Find Alternative To Plastic Packaging Grows In Philippines

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A Small Plastic Package Is A Big Culprit Of The Waste Filling Oceans

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Sachets like these, developed to market consumer goods to the poor, have become ubiquitous all over Asia. Jes Aznar for NPR hide caption

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Jes Aznar for NPR

A New Weapon In The War Against Plastic Waste

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Microplastics found along Lake Ontario by Rochman's team Chris Joyce/NPR hide caption

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Chris Joyce/NPR

Beer, Drinking Water And Fish: Tiny Plastic Is Everywhere

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Waste engineer Jenna Jambeck of the University of Georgia surveys plastic waste in a southeast Asian village, where it will be recycled to make raw material for more plastic products. Jambeck advises Asian governments on how to keep plastic trash out of waterways. Courtesy of Amy Brooks hide caption

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Courtesy of Amy Brooks

We're Drowning In Plastic Trash. Jenna Jambeck Wants To Save Us

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