Conservation

Plastic trade-offs

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Science  16 Oct 2020:
Vol. 370, Issue 6514, pp. 306-307
DOI: 10.1126/science.370.6514.306-e

The people who live around Bwindi Impenetrable Forest are skilled craftsfolk who select climbing plants for materials to make food-storage containers, thus avoiding the use of plastic alternatives that are not biodegradable.

PHOTO: ANDREW AITCHISON/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

In just over 100 years, plastics have become both a necessity and a scourge, replacing natural materials in a myriad of uses and becoming a ubiquitous contaminant both in ecosystems and within organisms. For human populations in and around tropical forests, natural materials are available to process and store food. Bitariho et al. looked at trade-offs between using wild climbing plants to make baskets and winnowers and using plastic containers and devices. The authors accounted for food security, potential for plastic pollution, and the conservation status of 15 species of climbing plants around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda. Families that had permission to collect wild climbing plants had more food storage and processing devices than those who did not. Although this study identified the risks of overharvesting one vulnerable climber species, it also showed that families with access to natural materials experienced greater food security and less plastic use and waste.

Conserv. Sci. Pract. 2, e275 (2020).

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