IN FOCUS Discussion: The plastics paradox (Pt. 2, Solutions)

In Focus

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – A new study published by Science in October 2020 found that the United States produced 92.6 billion pounds of plastic waste, more than any other country in the world in 2016. The report also found that despite a “robust and accessible waste management system,” between 309 million and 904 million pounds of plastic waste was illegally dumped in the U.S.

According to ABC News, scientists found that plastic waste contaminates all major ecosystems and are concerned about the potential for plastic to affect wildlife and human health, especially as smaller and more widespread plastic particles are identified in natural environments. Furthermore, the increased use of single-use products like masks, gloves, bags, and disposable silverware during the COVID-19 pandemic raises concerns among environmentalists about more plastic waste making its way into the ocean.

So what can we do to minimize the environmental impact of plastics and what are the potential solutions being discussed? Experts and researchers joined ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen on the CW30 News at 7 p.m. for a two-part IN FOCUS discussion about the “plastics paradox.” Part one that aired Monday night focused on the issues of plastic and part two that aired Tuesday night addressed some of the solutions.

Dr. Anthony Andrady, Adjunct Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at North Carolina State University discussed the creation of plastic, what material could replace items that are largely produced by plastic, and the degradability of plastic.

Matt Seaholm, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Plastics Industry Association talked about the industry’s view on recycling plastics, the response after China stopped importing plastics from the U.S. for repurposing, and possible solutions to curb the environmental impact of plastics.

Dr. Ramani Narayan, Distinguished Professor at Michigan State University in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, addressed products that are most easily replaced by biodegradable materials, how companies are thinking about these alternative products, and what changes we can do individually to help minimize the environmental impact of plastics.

All of the guests featured on the two-part series will also participate in a symposium hosted virtually by the Wallace Stegner Center on Thursday and Friday. The program will explore the role of plastics in the modern world; the environmental impacts of plastics production, use, and disposal; plastics and the law; human health and plastics; and the ongoing debate about the need, viability, and desirability of alternatives to plastics.

For more information or to register, visit the event’s website here.

To watch the full IN FOCUS discussion with Dr. Andrady, Seaholm, and Dr. Narayan, click on the video at the top of the article.

Catch IN FOCUS discussions with ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen weeknights on the CW30 News at 7 p.m.

Rosie Nguyen is an award-winning journalist who joined the ABC4 News team as a reporter in January 2018. In September 2020, she embarked on a new journey as the anchor for the CW30 News at 7 p.m. Although she’s not out in the field anymore, she is continuing her passion for social justice and community issues through the nightly “In Focus” discussions.

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