“How Bad are Microplastics?” made me cringe. Did the New York Times forget to check its sources? Behind the cartoonish captions and illustrations lies dangerous plastics industry messaging trying to sow doubt where none exists, create and then shoot-down a nonsensical strawman, and ultimately tell readers that reducing the industry’s footprint boils down to taking personal responsibility.
From PFAS to UV-328, the toxic chemicals in plastics are anything but “inert.” Moreover, the sources of microplastics are no mystery – our clothes are made of plastic; our farmers sow plastic-coated seeds and cover the fields in plastic mulch films; our tires shed microplastics on the roadways. And unlike aluminum cans, paper and glass, there is no safe way to recycle or dispose of plastics given the thousands of harmful additives. The petrochemical industry has triumphed in deflecting responsibility for carcinogenic air and water pollution and in saddling consumers and communities with the job of getting rid of plastic waste.
Plastics have become a lifeline for oil and gas companies determined not to let climate change and the promise of renewable energy cut into their profits. Production is on course to triple by 2060, damaging the climate and polluting fenceline communities with heavy metals, dioxins, and other toxic chemicals linked to cancers, reproductive problems, and impaired brain development. With so much at stake, it is startling to see the NYT helping to spread plastics industry disinformation.