Published: 06/28/2018

A strategic communications project from the Action Lab for Planetary Health (ALPHA).

Plastic pollution has been connected with a variety of health impacts, including mosquito-borne infectious diseases such as dengue, yellow fever, chikungunya, and Zika. Solving this problem requires not only reducing plastic use – but also improving local waste management and recycling.

As Kenyan nonprofit HERI-Kenya and Stanford Center for Innovation in Global Health (CIGH) researchers have found, scaling up plastic trash collection can improve public health and the environment and also provide a boon to local economies through supporting new business opportunities. This requires navigating various policy hurdles – including levies, taxes, permitting requirements, limited access to loans, inequities in pay – as well as expanding recycling infrastructure and reducing local stigma around trash collection.

The Action Lab for Planetary Health (ALPHA) is partnering with Stanford researchers and Kenyan non-profit HERI-Kenya to accelerate needed policy and business interventions. Recent efforts include disseminating research to policymakers, supporting policy workshops, and developing communications materials to build awareness of the plastic-disease connection. 

Research Brief: Mitigating Plastic Litter Will Significantly Reduce Mosquito-Borne Disease

This research brief outlines the connections between plastic waste and mosquito-borne disease and how building systems to remove this plastic can reduce deadly mosquito-borne diseases.

Commentary: There’s Good Reason to Worry About the Health Risks of Plastics

This commentary in The Washington Post outlines findings that suggest tiny plastic particles could disrupt immune and endocrine systems, damage organs, and cause other health problems.

Video: Can We Turn Trash into Health and Wealth?

A new video, disseminated through HERI-Kenya’s networks in coastal Kenya, depicts the importance of local trash collectors – showcasing how grassroots efforts can simultaneously reduce disease, beautify the community, and provide local opportunities.

Profile: Desiree LeBeaud and her work on mosquitoes and plastics

This feature in the Stanford Report profiles LaBeaud and her mission to address the environmental factors that threaten human health.

Publication: Tackling the Ubiquity of Plastic Waste for Human and Planetary Health

This publication in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene reviews out the myriad health risks of plastic waste on human health and calls for action to address the problem.

Video: Mountains of Plastic

This short video highlights recent findings on the health risks of plastics.

Header photo by Avinash Kumar on