Think of ocean pollution, and an image of water bottles strewn across beaches or huge numbers of plastic containers bobbing in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch may come to mind. In many ways, plastic bottles have become the de facto symbol of the waste that clogs up waterways and harms marine life.
Unlike the rigid material used in water bottles, sneeze guards, toys, and covid acrylic partitions, thin plastic is made with a softer, low density polyethylene. Shrink wrap, kitchen cling film, sandwich bags, candy wrappers, resealable storage bags, and bubble wrap are examples of this omnipresent material that account for 46% of the nearly 14 million metric tons of new plastic waste that end up in oceans each year.
Polybags—those ubiquitous transparent bags used to package all sorts of things from bulk vegetables to candy to new shirts—is a particularly enormous problem, Dune explains. In the fashion industry alone, an estimated 180 billion thin-film plastic polybags are used each year.
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