Environmental History 
of the Spokane River


The first plastic created was in 1869 by John Wesley Hyatt in attempt to find an alternative to ivory. Hyatt’s invention of the synthetic polymer (plastics) was revolutionary and initially led to less strain on natural resources such as wood, metal and minerals.

The onset of World War II led to a rise in the use of the synthetic material in items from parachutes to body armor. Production of plastic increased by 300% during World War II, and the production continued long after the war ended.

The possibilities of what plastic could be turned into were endless, but the world slowly learned how plastics played a part in pollution. In 1960, plastic debris was seen in the oceans and Rachel Carson published “Silent Spring”, exposing chemical pollution and igniting the ecological movement in America.

Since the creation of plastics, the world pollution problem has only worsened. An unknown factor of plastics at the time of their creation was that they could break down into what we now call "micro-plastics". These tiny sometimes microscopic pieces of plastic are causing extreme harm to ecosystems and the animals who ingest them.

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