Earth Day 2024: “Planet vs. Plastics”

Posted by on Apr 17, 2024 in Stuff You Should Know, Top Stories, World

Did you know that more plastic has been produced in the last ten years than in the entire twentieth century? It can take up to 1,000 years for plastics to break down. Even after that, tiny particles called microplastics remain in the soil, groundwater, and climate. 

Environmental technology concept
April 22 marks another Earth Day celebration,

Educating people is one goal of the annual Earth Day observance. It began as a national demonstration on April 22, 1970, to raise awareness and support for environmental protection. About 20 million Americans took part. They spoke out against industrial pollution and demanded cleaner water, air, and land. Monday, April 22, 2024, marks the 54th Earth Day. It is now recognized as the world’s largest civic event, with more than 1 billion people in 192 countries acting on environmental concerns.  

Plastic Pollution 

This year’s theme is “Planet vs. Plastics.” The campaign, organized by EARTHDAY.ORG, calls for a 60 percent reduction in all plastic production by 2040 with a goal of creating a plastic-free future. The organization is calling for more research on the health effects of plastic in the environment. They also request investment in new technologies and materials to replace plastic.  

EARTHDAY.ORG is also pushing for the gradual elimination of single-use plastics by 2030. A single-use plastic is an item designed to be used once and then thrown away. In 2022, more than 500 billion plastic bags were produced worldwide, at a rate of one million bags per minute. In the United States alone, 100 billion plastic beverage containers were sold in 2022. Currently, more than 160 countries are working to create a United Nations treaty to promote better product and packaging design to reduce plastic use. Negotiations are set to be completed by the end of 2024. 

Earth Day’s Legacies 

The magnitude of the first Earth Day convinced then-President Richard Nixon to propose a new federal agency, called the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Congress approved the EPA in December 1970. This agency was designed to protect human health and the environment. Earth Day also led to new legislation designed to protect the environment. On December 31, 1970, Nixon signed the Clean Air Act into law to improve the quality of air in the United States. Major amendments were added to the law in 1977 and 1990. Since 1990, discharges of key air pollutants have dropped about 50 percent.  

Until 1972, American cities and industrial facilities frequently dumped raw sewage, chemical waste, and dangerous metals into rivers.  The Clean Water Act created regulations to stop the release of pollutants into U.S. waters. Additional regulations were added to improve the quality of lakes, rivers, streams, and other water bodies. The goal was to make waterways swimmable and fishable again. According to the National Wildlife Federation, the Clean Water Act keeps 700 billion pounds of pollutants out of waterways each year.  

In addition, EARTHDAY.ORG has worked with governments and educators worldwide to develop civic engagement programs for students, climate literacy campaigns, and environmental education courses. 

To find out how you can take part in this Earth Day, visit

Dig Deeper Fast fashion is low-priced clothing made of cheap materials, including fibers such as nylon, polyester, and acrylic. Research how fast fashion contributes to plastic pollution. Share your findings with a friend.