Plastic is a big part of our everyday lives: It keeps our food fresh, has made all kinds of advanced medical equipment possible, and is a key component in a broad range of innovations from cars to computers, from phones to contact lenses.
But new research is finding plastic in places you wouldn’t expect: in our water, in salt, and in the placentas of pregnant women. Tiny particles of microplastics are in the air we breathe and in the waters of the San Francisco Bay.
Efforts to recycle plastic to keep it out of landfills are hampered by the sheer variety and volume of plastic produced. Every day, Californians discard enough plastic to fill more than 200 Olympic-sized swimming pools, according to state agency CalRecycle.
In this KQED Newsroom special, “California’s Plastic Problem,” reporter Monica Lam looks at what this proliferation of plastic means and what California is doing to fight plastic pollution.