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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a sweeping ban on single-use plastics in the country by 2021.

The ban includes plastic bags, plates, straws, cutlery, and a wealth of other single-use plastics in one of the most ambitious steps to reduce plastic use and its harmful effects on the environment due to its difficulty to recycle.

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TOPSHOT - Workers operate a machine that compacts recyclable plastics at a recycling facility in the Sham Shui Po district of Hong Kong on July 6, 2018. (Photo by VIVEK PRAKASH / AFP) (Photo credit should read VIVEK PRAKASH/AFP/Getty Images)

When you responsibly toss that water bottle into a recycling bin, you assume that it will be somehow recycled—maybe reborn as a park bench, a fleece jacket, or another water bottle. That reuse cycle was made possible largely due to China. For more than 25 years, recycled bottles and other plastic waste from the West were shipped to China, where they were sorted, cleaned, and turned into plastic pellets, which could be melted and turned into new products. Since 1992, about 45 percent of the world’s plastics sorted for recycling were sent to China—about 106 million metric tons of the stuff, which increased in volume by 800 percent until 2016, when China was receiving about two-thirds of the world’s plastic trash. Up until 2018, China accepted garbage from 43 countries. And then China got sick of taking in our garbage.

In January of 2018, China banned the import of plastic waste. The National Sword policy was created to protect China’s environment. Air and water quality in many parts of the nation have been devastated, first by the initial production of plastics, a petroleum product, and next by the return of all that garbage, much of which couldn’t actually be recycled after all due to contamination issues. The new policy bans 24 types of solid waste, including various plastics and unsorted mixed papers. Many trash exporting countries, including the U.S., Canada, and Australia, objected to the plan, as they now have to be responsible for their own garbage. So what happens now?

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An employee of the Polihon Communal Enterprise picks out plastic bottles at a municipal solid waste (MSW) sorting line launched near Rybne village, Kosiv district, Ivano-Frankivsk Region, western Ukraine, June 12, 2018. Ukrinform. (Photo credit should read Yurii Rylchuk / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

We all want to leave a legacy. Whether that takes the form of creative works, breakthrough discoveries, children, or other actions, we all want a way to show we were here. For nearly all of us, though, that legacy will be a literal ton of plastic garbage. Every disposable cup, straw, food wrapper, plastic bag, toy and bottle we use adds up to a lot of trash—9 billion tons of it and counting. The vast majority is still here, and will still be here thousands of years after we are gone. It is our most lasting legacy.

It is a problem of monumental proportions, and a solution is urgently needed. Perhaps science has discovered one. At a recycling plant in Japan in 2016, researchers discovered a microbe that has evolved to eat plastic.

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Going Zero Waste/Facebook

You may not think much about what you throw in the garbage over the course of a day — a plastic straw here, some plastic wrap there — but if you’re anything like the average American, you probably produce quite a bit of trash.

Roughly 4.4 pounds, to be exact, which, when added to your fellow citizens’ effluence, adds up to a staggering 250 million tons being thrown out in the U.S. each year — more than any other country in the world. And there’s no sign of a slow-down.

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[DIGEST: USA Today, The Atlantic, Science Daily]

Plastic has long been touted as a wonder material, but its growing environmental impact is becoming too large to ignore.

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After keeping the Senate healthcare bill secret even from Republican Senators in the so-called health care working group, Senator Mitch McConnell promised to release a discussion draft of the bill Thursday morning ahead of a potential vote next week. But by Wednesday evening details of the bill had leaked.

According to The Washington Post, much like the American Health Care Act that narrowly passed the House in May, the Senate bill would:

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Sweden has run out of trash. In fact, it has become such an expert at managing its own waste that it has to import garbage from neighboring countries to keep its 32 waste-to-energy (WTE) plants running—2.7 million metric tons in 2014. Less than one percent of its trash ends up in landfills. In the United States, that percentage is 54.

So what is Sweden doing that we aren’t? And should we follow their lead?

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