As we learn more and more about the incredibly obscure plastics supply chain, we become increasingly disheartened by the amount of environmental and human health destruction these firms cause through chemical pollution. One term that aptly describes the locations where such harms occur is “sacrifice zones.” Sacrifice zones are the geographic areas that are situated immediately adjacent to chemical polluting industries, like plastics supply chain processes such as extraction sites and manufacturing plants. These zones have irrevocable environmental damage, above-average human health issues, and often a lower economic investment interest. These zones are often situated in low-income and people of color communities. Residents in sacrifice zones also describe it as them not having the choice, nor granting the permission for, such harms to occur in their vicinity.
We are providing this quick, oversimplified background on sacrifice zones because it is important to better understand the ramifications that consumption of everyday products -- like plastic -- can have on communities far removed from our everyday lives.
So, with that in mind, what can we all do about it? In our personal lives, we can boycott products produced with plastic or buycott (support through the purchase of) products that are environmentally and socially preferred. In fact, the buycott app will allow you to look up a product to see what organizations are “supporting” and “avoiding” that product and brand to inform your purchase decision. In our professional lives, we can similarly make organizational purchasing decisions, especially at a much larger scale, for items that do not contain plastic, or from companies that have take-back or right-to-repair programs so either less supply chain processes are needed (e.g. no extraction) or if it is repaired, then no supply chain processes are needed. Ideally, we can all incorporate more reusables into our personal and professional lives so that we do not continue to cause such environmental and human health harms.