The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008: Plastic Pollution & Poverty

Reuters: A rubbish collector carries his baby as he walks amid plastic waste at a garbage dump site in Guiyang, Guizhou province June 3, 2008.

Today is Blog Action Day. Thousands of bloggers have united to discuss a single issue – poverty. The aim is to raise awareness and initiate action.

Honestly, I signed up to participate without giving the topic much thought, and now that I must come up with a blog post on the issue of poverty, I am nearly struck dumb. What can I possibly say about such enormous suffering?

So my contribution will simply be to show some of the plastic pollution all over the world, pollution which ends up in the world’s poorest regions because, like the plastic floating out in the North Pacific Gyre, these regions are to the Global Rich, out of sight and out of mind.

Reuters: A garbage collector transports plastic bags to recycle at a construction site in Xiangfan, Hubei province, March 16, 2008.

Reuters: Boys collects plastic materials as boats dock near a polluted coastline in Manila April 9, 2008.

Reuters: A woman washes plastic products on an algae-filled river in Tianjin municipality, September 13, 2007.

Reuters: A girl searches for plastic waste at a garbage dump site in Thailand’s Ayutthaya province, about 80 km (50 miles) north of Bangkok, May 1, 2007.

And of course, if you haven’t seen the Sky News video of what happens to much of the plastic “recycling” waste we ship to China, now’s a good time:

But these kinds of things aren’t just happening in developing countries. Here in the United States, PVC plants in Louisiana pump out toxic emissions daily to poor communities with some of the highest cancer rates.

I just finished reading Van Jones’s new book, Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems, which urges a merging of the environmental and social justice movements. He argues that because the environmental movement for so long has overlooked poor and minority communities, focusing primarily on whales and polar bears, alliances have formed between the polluters and the poor.

What can we do to lift us all up out of this mess we have created for ourselves, both environmentally and economically? It’s a big question and Van Jones has some hopeful answers:

The best answer to our ecological crisis also responds to our socioeconomic crisis. The surest path to safe streets and peaceful communities is not more police and prisons, but ecologically sound economic development. And that same path can lead us to a new, green economy — one with the power to lift people out of poverty while respecting and repairing the environment.

Please read the book. And then let’s work to see that whoever is elected in November take these ideas to heart.

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The Earth has been facing immense pollution from our garbage and consumption. The latest deadly pollution is plastic bags that fill up the landfills. With plastic bags becoming a growing concern, cotton canvas bag has become the new way to help stop the pollution. With plastic bag pollution being a rising concern, many shoppers need to start using reusable cotton canvas bags in order to stop the pollution. Plastic bag pollution is very deadly and takes hundreds of years to break down. Even if the component is broken done, the deadly chemicals will go into the ground and water system.… Read more »


For Immediate Release November 27, 2008 People Living in Low Income Communities Likely to Face Greater Pollution Releases New study examines links between pollution and poverty in Great Lakes basin and Toronto Toronto, ON – People living in poverty in the Great Lakes basin may be experiencing an increased burden of high air pollution from industrial facilities in their communities, says a new study released today by the Canadian Environmental Law Association and Environmental Defence through the groups PollutionWatch project. The study, An Examination of Pollution and Poverty in the Great Lakes Basin, found 37 communities, known as census subdivisions,… Read more »

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Thanks Beth. This post was powerful.

Rachael Levy

Thank you for sharing the pictures. I’m getting up from my computer right now and putting my canvas bags in my car so the next time I grocery shop I will have them in hand.

Crafty Green Poet

excellent post, photos like that really show the impact of plastic waste. I’ll link to this post from my Blog Action Day Post.


Beth, thank you for publishing those horrific photos of our consumer waste products – not our GNP but our CWP!! I believe that if our economy slowed down and went for quality – yes, things made from durable, non-throw-away materials, that lasted for 20 years or more, and that cost about 10 times more than what we pay for items made in underdeveloped countries, that people would value them more, think carefully about buying high quality and not think of only keeping items for a short time if they broke, but get them repaired and back to their pristine quality… Read more »


Terrific post, Beth. I saw trash pickers in Honduras, and, as Allie puts it, it just so disturbing. Little children picking up filthy junk in a toxic, smelly dump- we just wouldn’t tolerate that here, yet it is happening every day all over the world. We need to get disgusted enough to take action. Your photos just may do that.


Thanks so much for your contribution! This is something that we would definitely like to deal with further at, which focuses on holistic environmentalism, and how going green is best for everyone. It is informative to consider one more way that environmentalism and human rights are linked. Please feel free to link to your blog from ours. We are always looking for more resources to post. The url is Our website is, but it is under construction.


I noticed that another eco blog had made a post about poverty today. It’s so awful that the people that can’t afford to be consumers basically end up living in waste, which is a good predictor of where we’ll all be in a few years if we don’t clean up our act. These pictures are great.

Green Bean

Oh! I so wanted to post about poverty today but it just didn’t happen. I’m glad you did. Thank you for bringing those images back on to our radar. It is too easy to forget.


Wow. That is just so disturbing to see. It puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?