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Putting Plastic on Blast

Just in time for Earth Day, world leaders are taking on the plastic problem.

A sea turtle swims near a pair of plastic gloves

© Damocean—iStock/Getty Images Plus

Could this be a solution to plastic pollution? 

On March 2, 2022, the United Nations (UN) announced that 175 nations had agreed to draw up a treaty that will legally require them to reduce plastic waste. Government leaders made the agreement at the fifth biennial (every other year) session of the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya. The meeting brought together leaders of governments, businesses, and more to discuss critical environmental issues.

Plastic is certainly a critical issue. Each year, about 11 million metric tons of plastic end up in the oceans and other bodies of water. A lot of this waste is single-use plastic, which is plastic that’s used once before it gets discarded. Single-use plastic items include plastic bags, straws, beverage bottles, and most food packaging. Plastic doesn’t decompose. Once in the water, it often breaks down into tiny pieces called microplastics. Sea life can get caught in large plastic items or swallow small pieces.

The agreement that was made at the UN conference is a step toward tackling the plastic problem. Leaders said they would limit the production of new plastic and increase plastic recycling and the design of more sustainable packaging. Currently, less than 10 percent of the world’s plastic gets recycled.

“Plastic pollution has grown into an epidemic,” said Espen Barth Eide, president of the UN Environment Assembly’s fifth session and Norway’s minister of climate and the environment. “With today’s resolution, we are officially on track for a cure.”

Did You Know?

Illustration of plastic bottles stretching from Earth to the moon and back, with a measurement of the distance

© Fish405/; © Oixxo/

According to some estimates, humans throw away enough plastic every year to stretch from Earth to the moon and back!

What Can You Do?

There’s a lot you can do to tackle the plastics problem. Here are some ideas:


  • Reduce your use of single-use plastic. You can do this by carrying a reusable water bottle, using cloth bags for your groceries, and not using plastic utensils and straws.
Illustration of a woman with a recycling bag and recycling bin
Illustration of a woman on a ladder with a recycling bag and a shopping bag
  • When you do use plastic, see if it can be recycled. Most cities and towns post information online about which plastics they’ll recycle, and many grocery stores will accept plastic bags for recycling.
  • Organize a clean-up effort with family and friends at beaches or in parks. Bring along gloves, buckets, and plenty of sunscreen. It’s a good way to spend a day together, and it helps keep plastic away from wildlife.
Illustration of a man and woman putting recycling bags into recycling bins.

All illustrations: © Virinaflora/

Heroes for Planet Earth

A lot of people are working hard to protect our planet. Xiye Bastida is one of them.

A young woman speaks while holding a microphone

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: able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed

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