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Daily News Lessons (show all)

How pandemic pollution contributes to plastic problem

April 23, 2021


As the world has become hyper-hygienic since the pandemic began, plastic is playing an oversized role in the world’s environmental problems. On Earth Day (April 22), Stephanie Sy looks at how many of the single-use pandemic items are piling up in our landfills and in our environment.

  • Americans recycle less than 9 percent of the plastic they use. “We are the top waste generator by country and per person in the world,” says Jenna Jambeck, a professor at the University of Georgia.
  • Much of this waste comes from plastic containers and with single-use utensils, which has skyrocketed since the pandemic with to-go orders.
  • One company based outside Phoenix, Arizona, called Footprint is trying to disrupt the plastic packaging industry. The company’s containers are made of plant-based fiber, including wood the company says is sourced from sustainable forests, so they are compostable and biodegradable, according to Troy Swope, Footprint’s CEO.  Takeout salad company Sweetgreen uses their product and McDonald’s is testing out some of their lids.

Five Facts

  • Who does plastic pollution (including disposable gloves and masks) harm?
  • Why do you think plastic harms the environment and wildlife especially when it is not properly disposed of?
  • What are some things we can do to prevent plastic from getting in the environment?
  • How does takeout packaging contribute to environmental problems and how can people lessen their impact when using plastic food packaging?
  • Where does the problem of plastic pollution exist?
  • When will the problem of pollution on the planet improve?

Focus Questions

Do you think the federal government and state government should take more direct immediate action to lessen the use of plastic and help reduce pollution? Why or why not? What solutions can you think of to reduce the plastic problem? 

If you see a mask on the ground, would you pick it up safely and dispose of it properly?

Media literacy: What questions do you have about companies that are switching to more environmentally-friendly packaging containers? 


For More

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Media literacy education

What is media literacy?

Media literacy is the ability to access, evaluate and create all types of media, including news media.

All of NewsHour Classroom's resources contain lessons in media literacy, including questions like who produced the piece and what do you know about them?

Start by evaluating this video introducing NewsHour Classroom here.