Plastic Pollution: A Global Fight

with Erin Simon of the World Wildlife Fund

Over 800 species worldwide are impacted by plastic waste, contributing to a decline in global biodiversity.

Erin Simon of the World Wildlife Fund discusses the detrimental effects of plastic pollution in nature and a campaign that aims to eliminate it.

Posted on:

March 31, 2020

Hosted by: Tetiana Anderson
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Anderson: More than 8 million metric tons of plastic are leaking into our oceans every year, and while many are doing their part to reduce plastic pollution, it's still a detriment to the environment. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. Water bottles, take-out packaging, and plastic bags pollute our oceans and can destroy ecosystems and endanger marine life. To talk about the battle against plastic pollution, I'm joined by Erin Simon. She is the head of Plastic Waste and Business at the World Wildlife Fund. Erin, welcome.

Simon: Thank you so much or having me.

Anderson: Absolutely. So, you all say no plastic in nature. It's a campaign that you have going on right now, and it's really designed to fix what's currently broken in the system. What has not been working?

Simon: Well, when we have a dump truck of plastic entering our ocean every minute, you really have to step back and say, "How is it getting there? How is this happening? You know, where did we go wrong?" And the reality is, you know, over the past few decades, the the innovation in the use of plastics within our food systems and our medical systems and our electronics and even the clothes we're wearing has just has really blown up. But we haven't really kept up with what happens when we're done with those things, right? And so, unfortunately, we have to we have to step back and fix the entire system and find out why we have so much plastic ending up in nature.

Anderson: So, in some ways, there is a success when it comes to innovation, but there's a real failure to nature here. What are we seeing when it comes to, you know, marine life and animals? What's it doing to all of them?

Simon: I mean, when you have when you have situations where over 800 different species have come in contact with plastics, whether they're eating it or getting tangled up in it or it's it's clogging up their habitats, none of those interactions end well. And then when you think about the communities that depend on those fisheries for their livelihoods, to feed their children, you know -- it's really wreaking havoc, and so it's really time that we stop the flow of plastics into nature, because not only is it damaging those ecosystems and hurting those species and those communities, but it represents a misuse of the resources that our planet provided for us in the first place.

Anderson: I have to say, I am a huge fan of a straw. I know that I shouldn't be. And taking them out of my life as is a simple solution, but what are some other ways that people can be more cognizant and watch and monitor their use of plastic so it doesn't have these long-term effects?

Simon: Yeah, I think the straw was a big movement, right? It was really nice to see the -- Well, it wasn't nice to see, but we saw the picture of the turtle with a straw on the nose, and we thought, today, I can do something, right? And so that really connected everybody to the issue. But you're right. Straws are one piece of this, right? They are they are the start of that momentum. But really, they're not going to solve the problem for us, right? That, plastic bag bans -- those are all just the tip of the iceberg. What we need is systems change. We need businesses, we need policymakers, and we need the public to all lean in on this issue.

Anderson: So, it's not about the straw. It's about the collective movement that will get us from no straws to no plastic in nature, which is, of course, the theme of the campaign.

Simon: That's right. That's right. We're looking to help all those key players in the supply chain, from the production of plastics to the use of them to the sale of them to the collection and reprocessing of them and all of those places to make sure we can reduce the leakage and enable more efficient systems, right? So, we're really trying to focus on the policymakers and the sensible legislation that will make that happen and working with companies to make sure they can do that.

Anderson: And it's not just the policymakers and the companies -- it's really the world. So, how hopeful are you that it's possible to develop these international agreements that would reduce this plastic pandemic? I think that's what you guys call it.

Simon: So I think when you're looking at situation like this, right, which is a global global system, which these materials are flowing in, but yet they require local solutions. There is such great opportunity for innovation and progress, and if there is something that humans have proven year over year is that we persevere. And so in this, there is an opportunity for us to look at aligning as nations on what requirements we need around plastics, aligning as communities around how we're going to engage with these materials when we're done with them, and we're going to, as WWF, really influence those who make these products, the major global brands, to address how to rethink how they're making them and where they go in the world and what they do with them. And so we're doing that through a program called Resource Plastic that's going to tie that all together.

Anderson: So, it sounds like, at the end of the day, you're pretty hopeful that all of this can get done.

Simon: I mean, I don't think we have a choice, and so I am really going to trust that all of us are going to keep riding this wave of momentum and excitement and interest in this issue, and we're gonna do our part.

Anderson: and we're going to lose the straws. Erin, thank you.

Simon: Thank you so much.

Anderson: And thank you for joining us, as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation, be sure to visit I'm Tetiana Anderson.

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