Plastic is one of the most pressing environmental problems we face today. It’s a factor in climate change and the primary culprit in forming the garbage gyres polluting the ocean. Microplastics bioaccumulate, presenting a looming threat whose impacts on human health remain unknown – which makes it especially scary for parents of small children. As individuals, we can try to break free of plastic pollution by eliminating single-use plastics, making sustainable fashion choices, and encouraging government action. But for such a ubiquitous material, most of us don’t have a very clear grasp on plastic. If you like to understand the how and why behind environmental issues, here’s a reading list on plastic.
This article contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item through one of these links, we receive a small commission that helps fund our Recycling Directory.
Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and You Can Too
by Beth Terry
You can find lots of memoirs of plastic-free living, but Beth Terry’s “Plastic-Free” is the one that inspired them all. Terry, who once spoke with Earth911 about the plastic-free lifestyle, documented her journey to eliminate plastic from her life on a blog called My Plastic Free Life, and then compiled everything she learned into the book, “Plastic Free.” A newer, updated version of the book includes sections on eco-guilt, coping with overwhelming problems, and relating to people who aren’t as plastic-free.
American Plastic: A Cultural History
by Jeffrey L. Meikle
Another older book, the interdisciplinary history “American Plastic” traces the historical course of plastics. Beginning from 19th-century celluloid, the book follows the proliferation of compounds like vinyl and polystyrene until it reaches the emergence of widespread concerns about plastics’ ecological impacts.
Your Plastic Footprint: The Facts About Plastic Pollution and What You Can Do to Reduce Your Footprint
by Rachel Salt
“Your Plastic Footprint” explains the origins and scope of the plastic problem. It helps readers measure the scale of the problem on an individual level and then offers solutions on how to rethink and reduce plastic use. Straightforward language, infographics and photos make this book simple enough for younger readers without trivializing the problem.
Plastic: A Toxic Love Story
by Susan Freinkel
Journalist Susan Freinkel examines the impacts of plastic around the world through the life cycles of eight commonplace plastic objects: a comb, a chair, a Frisbee, an IV bag, a disposable lighter, a grocery bag, a soda bottle, and a credit card. Her writing blends the anecdotal with scientific and economic data to be both readable and reliable.
Plastic: An Autobiography
by Allison Cobb
In her book that blends the personal with the global, author Allison Cobb’s obsession with a plastic car part leads her to unravel the connections among plastic waste, climate change, nuclear technologies, and racism. Cobb approaches the issue of plastic philosophically, with a poet’s eye for detail in a series of interlocking narrative essays that travel from ancient Phoenicia to modern day Alabama.
Plastic Ocean: How a Sea Captain’s Chance Discovery Launched a Determined Quest to Save the Oceans
by Charles Moore and Cassandra Phillips
In 1997, researcher Charles Moore discovered the world’s largest collection of floating trash—the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. His discovery led the environmental researcher to become an activist. This book documents the history of plastic and Moore’s own battle against it. His scientific background lets Moore dig deeper into the chemistry of plastic and plastic pollution than many other authors.
Plastic Soup: An Atlas of Ocean Pollution
by Michiel Roscam Abbing
Michiel Roscam Abbing of the Plastic Soup Foundation reveals the plastic trash littering the entire planet with photography and graphics. At the same time, he highlights projects that curb plastic waste and raise awareness: from plastic-free grocery stores to innovative laws and art installations.
How to Give Up Plastic: A Guide to Changing the World, One Plastic Bottle at a Time
by Will McCallum
Greenpeace activist Will McCallum presents a straightforward guide to eliminating plastic from your life. Moving through the office and home room by room, he identifies sustainable alternatives to disposable plastics. He shares anecdotes from anti-plastic activists around the world and tips on how to advocate for less plastic to businesses and leaders.
Say Goodbye to Plastic: A Survival Guide for Plastic-Free Living
by Sandra Ann Harris
One of the newest additions to the genre of plastic-free living guidebooks, “Say Goodbye to Plastic” shows you how to say goodbye to plastic in each room of the house by recognizing wasteful habits. In contrast to many Zero Waste books, this one takes a softer approach, with actions for every commitment level.
Plastic Game Changer: How to Reduce Plastic in Your Organization to Make a Difference to Plastic Pollution
by Amanda Keetley
Individual action can make a difference. But environmental crises won’t be solved without business and governments getting on board with meaningful action. “Plastic Game Changer” addresses the second part of the equation with a 5Ps framework and inspirational success stories to help professionals make an impact reducing plastic use in their organizations.
Initiate a Plastic Bag Ban
by Ted Duboise
Citizens have been working for government support to end plastic pollution for years. Author Ted Duboise has tracked the progress of municipal plastic bans across the U.S. to develop this guide to starting a plastic bag ban in your own town. The book contains stories of successful bans and an in-depth resource guide with reference legislation, attention-grabbing strategies, and a sample petition.