Stories by Jessie Li

Oh, the places plastic will go

View of collected plastic waste at Guacalillo beach, in Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Collected plastic waste at Guacalillo beach, Costa Rica. Photo: Ezequiel Becerra/AFP/Getty Images

The ubiquity of plastics has led some researchers to dub this era the Plastic Age. From macro to micro, plastics are slowly permeating our bodies, our oceans and even our air.

Why it matters: By one estimate, nearly 80% of plastic waste has accumulated in landfills or in the natural environment, and it’s uncertain how long it takes to degrade.

Parents against plastic

A girl holds a sign with a Barbie doll which says 'Plastic is not fantastic'.
School climate strike in London. Photo: Jenny Matthews/In Pictures via Getty Images

From Legos to Barbies, toys are an indispensable part of childhood — and plastics are an indispensable part of the toy industry. Some parents who are part of a growing zero-waste movement are refusing to buy plastic toys.

Why it matters: The global toy industry is worth $89 billion, and many toys today are made of plastic. It makes them inexpensive but also easily disposable once children grow out of them, and they're seldom recycled.

The art of ocean trash

Images of artist's workspace with many glass jars holding assorted small plastic items like toys and beads. Next to it, a canvas with plastic objects arranged in a colorful montage
Artist Steve McPherson's workspace. Photo: Steve McPherson

For our Deep Dive on plastics, Axios commissioned artist Steve McPherson to create a custom piece using plastics washed onto the coastline of England. McPherson transforms these discarded, forgotten plastic objects into vibrant, beautiful pieces — forcing the viewer to confront where these objects actually originated.

Why it matters: Plastic makes up more than 60% of ocean litter — millions of metric tons — and that amount is only increasing. Artists like McPherson are using their platform to address the complexity of the plastics problem and to urge people to examine their consumer habits.