In honor of Earth Day, we're talking about plastic. Plastics pose a huge problem for the environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that only 8.7 percent of all plastics are recycled. That's as of 2018, and amounts to only about 3 million tons. In that same year, 27 million tons of plastic were buried in landfills.
And this problem is only going to continue to grow. It makes economic sense to producers, as it is much cheaper to make virgin plastic out of oil, than to make plastic from plastic trash. The oil industry makes more than 400 billion dollars a year just by making plastics. With numbers like those, analysts predict plastic production will triple by 2050.
But that plastic doesn't just fill up our landfills. It ends up in our oceans, and in our drinking water in the form of "microplastics".
The pandemic further complicated matters, because we were told to stop bringing our reusable shopping bags to the grocery store, due to concern about spreading the coronavirus. And we ordered a lot of takeout, which uses a lot of "single use" plastic containers.
So what do we do about all this? A local recycling and sustainability expert from the University of Akron, Dr. James Eagan, joined Rick Jackson on the Sound of Ideas to talk about his research to create a more environmentally-friendly polymer.
Later in the hour, we'll talk to a national psychologist who shares advice on how to start strengthening our social muscles again, as the country re-opens, and Ideastream senior arts reporter David C. Barnett talks about the latest in the Equity in Arts series.
Dr. James Eagan, Ph.D., assistant professor, School of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering, the University of Akron
-Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology and director of the Social Interaction Lab, University of California, Berkeley
-David C. Barnett, senior arts reporter, Ideastream