7 ways Google is helping reduce pollution from plastics

Ninety-one percent of all plastic produced is designed for single-use purposes — used just once and then thrown away. Plastic takes hundreds of years to decompose, and it can release harmful chemicals into the environment. And despite growing awareness of how dangerous it is, plastic production is set to double in the next 20 years.

This World Environment Day, we’re joining the global call to beat plastic pollution. Here are seven ways we’re working hard to do that.

1. Making it easier to recycle

It can be difficult to figure out what personal items are recyclable — including plastic goods like bottles, bags or clothes — and where to recycle them.

In 2021, we introduced a new group of recycling attributes for Google Business Profiles on Search and Maps, allowing local storefronts and shops to show the recycling services they offer and helping people share this information with others in their community. Now you can search for nearby recycling drop-off locations — through searches like “plastic bottle recycling near me” — all over the world.

2. Helping people find pre-owned items

It’s no secret that the fashion industry contributes significantly to emissions and waste: Clothing is responsible for about four percent of carbon emissions. What’s more, each year the fashion industry uses 342 million barrels of petroleum to produce plastic-based fibers such as polyester, nylon or acrylic.

We’ve introduced new features in Google Shopping to help people make more sustainable fashion choices, like shopping for pre-owned items. Within Search, you’ll see labels that highlight pre-owned products so it’s easier to make eco-friendlier shopping decisions.

3. Reducing waste with machine learning

Less than 10% of our global resources are recycled, and nearly a fifth of items that are sent to recycling plants aren’t supposed to be there. This is made worse by inefficiencies and inaccuracies in the waste sorting processes at material recovery facilities.

To help combat these issues, we introduced CircularNet, a set of machine learning and AI algorithms to support the way waste management facilities identify, sort, manage and recycle materials.

We’re continuing to improve the models in partnership with experts in the waste management and recycling industries. And we hope that, with time, CircularNet enables better and more efficient recycling strategies.

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