PlasticWatch: Five books to gift yourself this festival season

As the debate surrounding plastic rages on, the WhatPackaging? Team handpicks five books that offer a ringside view of how plastic affects our lives

27 Sep 2023 | By Dibyajyoti Sarma

ringside view of how plastic affects our lives

Wasteland: The Dirty Truth about What We Throw Away, Where it Goes, and Why it Matters

Oliver Franklin-Wallis’s Wasteland shows how our rubbish creates an environmental and human catastrophe. When we throw things ‘away’, what does that actually mean? Where does it go, and who deals with it when it gets there? In Wasteland, award-winning journalist Oliver Franklin-Wallis takes us on an eye-opening journey through the global waste industry. From the mountainous landfills of New Delhi to Britain’s overflowing sewers, from hollowed-out mining towns in the USA to Ghana’s flooded second-hand markets, we meet the people on the frontline of our waste crisis – both those being exploited, and those determined to make a difference. On the way, we discover the corporate greenwashing that started the recycling movement; the dark truth behind our second-hand donations; and come face to face with the 10,000-year legacy of our nuclear waste.

Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles into the Darkness

In the 1990s, work began on a state-of-the-art treatment plant and a 10-mile-long tunnel to carry waste out of the harbour. With this impressive feat of engineering, Boston was poised to show the country how to rebound from environmental ruin. But when bad decisions and clashing corporations endangered the project, a team of commercial divers was sent on a perilous mission to rescue the stymied cleanup effort. Five divers went in; not all of them came out alive.

Drawing on hundreds of interviews and thousands of documents collected over five years of reporting, award-winning writer Neil Swidey takes us deep into the lives of the divers, engineers, politicians, lawyers, and investigators involved in the tragedy and its aftermath, creating a taut, action-packed narrative. The climax comes just after the hard-partying DJ Gillis and his friend Billy Juse trade assignments as they head into the tunnel, sentencing one of them to death.

A Poison Like No Other: How Microplastics Corrupted Our Planet and Our Bodies

In A Poison Like No Other, Matt Simon reveals a whole new dimension to the plastic crisis, one even more disturbing than plastic bottles washing up on shores and grocery bags dumped in landfills. Dealing with discarded plastic is bad enough, but when it starts to break down, the real trouble begins. The very thing that makes plastic so useful and ubiquitous — its toughness — means it never really goes away. It just gets smaller and smaller: eventually small enough to enter your lungs or be absorbed by crops or penetrate a fish’s muscle tissue before it becomes dinner.

Unlike other pollutants that are single elements or simple chemical compounds, microplastics represent a cocktail of toxicity: plastics contain at least 10,000 different chemicals. Those chemicals are linked to diseases from diabetes to hormone disruption to cancers.

A Poison Like No Other is the first book to fully explore this new dimension of the plastic crisis, following the intrepid scientists who travel to the ends of the earth and the bottom of the ocean to understand the consequences of our dependence on plastic. As Simon learns from these researchers, there is no easy fix. But we will never curb our plastic addiction until we begin to recognise the invisible particles all around us. 

The Plastics Paradox: Facts for a Brighter Future

Written by Chris DeArmitt, this is the first and only book to reveal the truth about plastics and the environment. Based on over 400 scientific articles, it dispels the myths that the public believe today. We are told that plastics are not green when in fact, they are usually the greenest choice according to lifecycle analysis (LCA). We are told that plastics create a waste problem when they are proven to dramatically reduce waste, for example replacing 1-lb of plastic requires 3 to 4-lb of replacement material. We are told that plastics take 1,000 years to degrade when in fact a plastic bag disintegrates in just one year outdoors. We are led to believe that plastic bags and straws are an issue when in fact they barely register in the statistics. The list goes on.

How to Give Up Plastic: A Guide to Changing the World, One Plastic Bottle at a Time

By Around 12.7 million tonnes of plastic are entering the ocean every year, killing over one-million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals. By 2050 there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish by weight. Plastic pollution is the environmental scourge of our age, but how can you make a difference? This accessible guide, written by the campaigner at the forefront of the anti-plastic movement, Will McCallum, will help you make the small changes that make a big difference, from buying a reusable coffee cup to running a clean-up at your local park or beach. Tips on giving up plastic include: Washing your clothes within a wash bag to catch plastic microfibers (the cause of 30% of plastic pollution in the ocean), replacing your regular shampoo with bar shampoo, how to lobby your supermarket to remove unnecessary packaging, how to throw a plastic-free birthday party, how to convince others to join you in giving up plastic, and so on.


Latest Poll

The packaging industry is confused by recycling and sustainability rules in India. What is the biggest challenge?


The packaging industry is confused by recycling and sustainability rules in India. What is the biggest challenge?

Shortcomings in EPR policy



Inadequate infrastructure



Shortage of recycling firms



Lack of consumer awareness



Total Votes : 19


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