Is plastic pollution a planetary boundary?

August 20, 2019

British scientists from the Universities of Bournemouth and the University College London recently published an article (1) in the journal “Marine Policy” regarding the importance of tackling plastic pollution for the benefit of our environment. Having a catchy title, the scientists questioned the global focus on reducing (marine) plastic pollution in national and regional policies. 

Acknowledging that plastic pollution is now reaching planetary boundary thresholds (environmental capacity limits for human well-being on earth) they emphasise the need for recognising other high-impact lifestyle changes, such as reduction of aviation, vegetarianism or carbon reduction by lesser direct fuel emissions. 

However, they critically highlight the “in-factor” of alternatives to conventional plastics as an easy and convenient way to being environmentally friendly while potentially ignoring other measures to prohibit environmental damages, such as climate change and biodiversity loss. 

Focusing on the systematic complexity of the environmental threats we are facing nowadays, the scientists intention in their critical article was not to question the importance of reducing plastic pollution by the provision of alternatives and the enhancement of recycling, but rather to highlight all other connected aspects in our common goal of maintaining this planet as a habitable place for many coming generations.    

  1. Stafford, R., & Jones, P. J. (2019). Viewpoint–Ocean plastic pollution: A convenient but distracting truth?. Marine Policy, 103, 187-191.

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