Welcome to Unwrapping Plastics! This series, developed by MRWMD intern Andrew Jarvis in June 2020, is comprised of a set of blog posts and video lectures intended to provide an overview of the nature of the global plastics crisis. The end goal is for readers to leave with a fundamental understanding of the unique geography of the post-National Sword plastics crisis, including the linkage between plastic production and resource management; environmental justice as it relates to plastics; and critiques of the main approaches to plastic pollution management. It is hoped that the series might serve as a community resource on plastics and plastic pollution.

As the Public Education and Outreach Intern at MRWMD, I have had the opportunity to engage with recycling and waste reduction projects, two of my passions. This project expands upon my undergraduate research, which focused on the geography of waste, public engagement with plastic pollution, and international environmental management. I am excited to make this content available to the public. I first became interested in plastics when I studied abroad in Bangkok and Oslo – very different cities with different relationships with waste, but united by the common problem of plastic pollution.

We live in an exciting time. The state of the environment, and people’s relationship to the natural world, is dire. But there is immense opportunity for change. I believe that change will come soon. Plastic pollution is a rapidly developing issue; media coverage of polluted environments together with surges in production can be disheartening at best and overwhelming at worst. But people aren’t powerless. People have the power to make change and expand that change through social networks. Every action, every decision, every post, matters. MRWMD wants to be a resource, and recognizes that plastic pollution is a crisis at the global scale and that there is a need for waste reduction at both the producer and consumer levels.

Plastics and climate change

Given that 99% of plastics are made from fossil fuels, plastic production almost always starts with the extraction of oil, coal, and natural gas.


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Plastics and power

What is National Sword? Why is plastic pollution an environmental injustice?


Read more >

Plastics and Systems

The plastics crisis is rooted in — and worsened by — social and economic systems that maintain power structures and defer responsibility to consumers.

Coming soon…

Consumption and culture

Plastics are deeply entrenched in mainstream collective consciousness. What has allowed this to happen?

Coming soon…

Environmental policy: source reduction and extended producer responsibility

What is the theoretical basis for progressive waste policy?

Coming soon…

Solutions: local communities and beyond

What are communities on the Monterey Peninsula and beyond doing to address plastic pollution and move towards a more equitable, zero waste culture?

Coming soon…

Further Reading:

Unwrapping Plastics                                          Video Presentations

Part 1: Plastics and climate change

Part 2: Impacts of plastic pollution

Part 3: Management of plastic pollution

Part 4: Solutions to the plastics crisis

About the author: Andrew Jarvis is a recent UCLA graduate with a B.A. in International Development Studies and Geography and interests in international environmental policy, critical waste studies, plastic pollution management, and environmental justice. He worked as MRWMD’s first Public Education and Outreach Intern from October 2019 to June 2020.

Andrew can be reached at adjarvis@ucla.edu.