Plastic is among the “novel entities” that have exceeded safe planetary boundaries according to the Stockholm Resilience Center, and for the first time has been put into the red zone as a threat to earth’s planetary systems.
The Stockholm Resilience Center is an international research centre on resilience and sustainability science. To help understand the impact of human activity on the planet, they conceptualized a set of nine planetary boundaries that humans can’t exceed without threatening the stability of the Earth’s systems.
The boundaries include some expected categories like fresh water, forested land, CO2, ocean acidification and also a category called “novel entities”. It uses quantitative standards to determine what is safe, and then assess if humanity is living within a safe boundary (green) or is at risk (yellow) or has exceeded the boundary (red) that regulates the stability of the Earth system.
The new research (2022-02-01) is the first time a planetary boundary has been set for Novel Entities, which are synthetic chemicals including plastics, GMO’s, radioactive materials and other human creations.
In an article published by the Stockholm Resilience Center, research co-author Patricia Villarubia-Gomez notes that chemical production has increased by fifty-fold since 1950, and plastic production alone increased 79% between 2000 and 2015.
“The pace that societies are producing and releasing new chemicals and other novel entities into the environment is not consistent with staying within a safe operating space for humanity.” she said.
It concludes that the reduction of harmful production and release of pollutants is needed to return the Earth to the safe boundary.
Credit: Designed by Azote for Stockholm Resilience Centre, based on analysis in Persson et al 2022 and Steffen et al 2015. See article: