Plastic

Biden’s Bold Climate Plan Shouldn’t Ban Plastics

As expected, the Biden administration was just a few days old and had already exercised the power of the pen. On day one, President Biden issued 17 executive actions on issues ranging from COVID19 relief to immigration reform. Chief among those were actions on climate policy, set to be a cornerstone of the Biden agenda.

All in one day, President Biden recommitted the U.S. to the Paris Climate Accord and revoked permits for the Keystone XL pipeline project, slated to have its fourth phase completed to transport oil from Alberta, Canada to Steele City Nebraska at a rate of 500,000 barrels of oil a day for 20 years.

Climate activists applauded the president’s first actions, but they’re pushing for more. For its part, the activist group Greenpeace wants Biden to declare total war on plastic, supporting bills such as the “Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act.” Not to be outdone, the Los Angeles Times editorial board has urged restrictions on single-use plastics in all future climate change policies. 

Congress also has added some new plastic warriors to its seating chart. Newly-minted U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) campaigned on an overarching federal plastic ban, while appointed U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) was the architect of California’s 2014 plastic bag ban. 

While there is no doubt the Biden administration will put plastics in its crosshairs, we should ask whether plastic bans are, on the whole, a net positive for the environment and climate.

If we care about the environment, much of the evidence dug up by other countries points us in the opposite direction. 

When Denmark considered a ban on single-use plastic grocery bags, its studies found they were far superior in comparison to alternatives. The Danes came to that conclusion based on 15 environmental benchmarks, including climate change, toxicity, ozone depletion, resource depletion, and ecosystem impact. They calculated paper bags would need to be reused 43 times to have the same total impact as a plastic bag. For cotton, the figures were even worse. A cotton bag has to be reused 7,000 times, while an organic version would need to be used 20,000 times to be on par with a single-use plastic bag. Consumer usage patterns clearly show that if the environment is our concern, banning plastic bags is a net negative.

Beyond bags, there is also a strong case to be made that other plastics may be environmentally advantageous when compared to alternatives. Researchers in Switzerland, looking at baby food containers, concluded using plastic over glass reduced emissions by up to 33 percent due to its lighter weight and lower transportation costs. That same metric also applies to everything from food packaging to everyday consumer goods. 

As such, restricting plastics would undoubtedly push consumers to high impact alternatives, which runs counter to the goals of sustainability and reduced waste.

This isn’t to deny the serious issue of mismanaged plastic waste. In fact, if Biden wants to take action to remove plastic waste from our environment, he should consider innovative recycling practices that are proving effective, such as chemical depolymerization. 

This is the process of advanced recycling, where plastic is broken down and repurposed into new products. There are innovative projects underway across North America led by scientists and entrepreneurs, taking simple plastics, altering their chemical bonds, and repurposing them into resin pelletstiles for your home, and even road asphalt. This approach empowers innovation to solve plastic waste, creates jobs, and does it with minimal environmental impact.

But for those who recognize the potential of this innovation, there still remains the problem of microplastics, which often end up in our water sources. Luckily, scientists have an answer here as well. 

Using electrolytic oxidation, researchers have succeeded in “attacking” microplastics, breaking them down into C02 and water molecules, all without additional chemicals. Here, the Biden administration could embrace the science that makes these technologies both scalable and sustainable.

If President Biden wants to heed the call of climate action, he has all the tools at his disposal to do so. But rather than endorsing costly and ineffective plastic bans, we should look to innovators and scientists who are offering a third way on plastic waste. That would be a true endorsement of science for the 21st century.

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager with the Consumer Choice Center

Originally published here.

The Marlins Park Saga, Illegal Fishing, And Are Plastic Bans Good For The Environment?

Miami’s tough relationship with the Miami Marlins. Why illegal fishing is having devastating effects on marine life. Do plastic bans actually work in favor of the environment?

The Marlins Park Saga

If you’ve lived in Miami at some point in the past decade or two, you’re probably familiar with the controversy surrounding Marlins Park. Essentially, it was paid for with more than $600 million taxpayer dollars.

The city agreed to pay for it — as long as the team’s then-owner shared in any profits he made from selling the team.

“In 2008, Jeffrey Loria, the former owner of the Marlins, threatened to leave Miami if they didn’t get a new stadium. The Major League Baseball president at the time, Bob Dupuy, put an ultimatum to [Miami-Dade] County saying, ‘If you guys don’t help finance a new stadium, you can kiss baseball in South Florida goodbye,’” said WLRN reporter Danny Rivero on Sundial.

When Loria sold the team in 2017 for $1.2 billion, he refused to share the money promised, claiming he lost money in the sale.

“He said because of that, he didn’t owe the county or the city any money on this. That is what led to the lawsuit with the county and the city saying, ‘Hold on. Like, there’s no way that that math adds up. Like, we’re clearly owed something.’ The taxpayers are owed something from this huge profit,” Rivero said.

This week a settlement was reached on that lawsuit filed by the county, but commissioners decided to delay voting on the proposed $4.2 million from settling the suit.

Illegal Fishing

When you take a bite out of spicy tuna roll, or purchase salmon from your local supermarket, do you know if that fish was obtained illegally?

It’s nearly impossible to pinpoint just how much of that fish is coming from illegal sources, experts say. Marine ecosystems have been devastated by these unregulated markets and the practice of overfishing.

“Fish is the principal source of protein in the world. Lots of populations throughout the world only depend on fish and fish to survive. One of the most devastating impacts that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing has is that it takes away the only source of protein that many coastal communities have throughout the world,” said former Costa Rican president Luis Guillermo Solís on Sundial.

Solís is currently interim chair of the Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center at Florida International University. He was part of the university’s annual State of the World Conference this week, where he presented on the illegal fishing market.

He added that as a consumer, insisting that stores identify the source of the fish they’re selling, is a step in the right direction.

“Fishing has been determined as of the highest national security importance. This is very important in the Western Hemisphere. It’s going to be fundamental because it will allow for greater degrees of collaboration between our countries,” Solís said.

Are Plastic Bans Good For The Environment?

Plastic pollution contributes to a lot of our environmental hardships. It harms wildlife, the ocean and it contributes to the climate crisis by emitting greenhouse gases.

But plastic is also practical, durable and cheap.

Florida has a state-level preemption that blocks local governments from banning single-use plastics.

“We need to ask companies to reduce the amount of plastic they are putting into the supply chain and find alternative ways to package and deliver their products,” said Catherine Uden, the South Florida campaign organizer for Oceana. “Often consumers are not even given a choice when they go to the stores.”

In January, state lawmakers Linda Stewart and Mike Grieco introduced a bill to change that preemption to allow local plastic bans. Some argue, though, that these bans are not the solution.

“There are legitimate and environmentally conscious reasons for why we use plastic,” said David Clement, with the Consumer Choice Center advocacy group.

“The differences between a glass container for something like baby food and a plastic container. It’s about 33 percent better for the environment to have that product be in plastic because it’s lighter. It’s easier to get to your grocery shelf. It costs less in terms of fuel and emissions,” Clement said.

Clement recently penned an op-ed in the Miami Herald saying that extending the lifespan of plastics by building better infrastructure for recycling would be a better option.

Recycling, as it is now, has not been effective — less than 10 percent all plastic waste has been recycled.

“It’s like going into your house and seeing your sink overflowing and instead of turning off the tap, then just grabbing them up and trying to mop up the floor,” said local advocate Andrew Otazo. He spends his time cleaning up plastic trash from South Florida’s waterways.

Originally published here.

Yahoo: Banning single-use plastics won’t solve Florida’s pollution problem. Chemical recycling will.

In early January, Democratic Florida lawmakers Linda Stewart and Mike Grieco introduced a bill to greenlight local plastic bans, previously prohibited by state statute. While the desire to keep plastic waste out of the environment is understandable, the fact is that plastic bans often do more harm for the environment than good.

Banning single-use plastic products can be more environmentally damaging because alternatives are even more wasteful.

When Denmark considered a ban on single-use plastic grocery bags, their studies found that they were far superior in comparison to alternatives. The Danes came to that conclusion based on 15 environmental benchmarks, including climate change, toxicity, ozone depletion, resource depletion and ecosystem impact. They calculated that paper bags would need to be reused 43 times to have the same total impact as a plastic bag. For cotton, the figures were even worse. A cotton bag has to be reused 7,000 times, while an organic version would need to be used 20,000 times to be on par with a single-use plastic bag.

Clearly, consumers do not reuse plastic alternatives anywhere near the number of times necessary to make a positive difference. Given the energy expended to make these alternatives, forcing consumers to use them because of a ban on plastic is a net negative if we care about the environment.

Beyond that, prospective local bans miss the mark on how we can actually deal with plastic waste. When we are talking about plastic waste in our environment, we are really talking about mismanaged litter. If plastics are ending up in Florida’s parks or on its beaches, that is a serious problem that needs to be dealt with. Luckily, there are a variety of innovative ways that plastic can be responsibly handled, that doesn’t involve banning entire product categories.

Rather than clearing a path for future bans, legislators should be narrowing their sights on better processes to reclaim plastic waste and investing in recycling through chemical depolymerization. Through depolymerization, virtually all plastic products can be broken down into their original building blocks and repurposed into other products. This means that traditionally single-use plastic products can have their lifespan extended indefinitely. This isn’t hypothetical — there are countless examples across North America where innovators take plastic waste, especially single-use products, and turn them into everything from resin pelletstiles for your home and even road asphalt.

Of course, the timing of prospective bans shouldn’t be ignored either. The pandemic has been devastating for bars and restaurants. Local bans on single-use items would force them to switch to costlier alternatives at the most inopportune time. Bans on plastic bags, cutlery, take-out containers or even bottles would be kicking these business owners right as they are trying to get back on their feet. The bans also impact consumers, not just by limiting consumer choice, but also by inflating business costs, which are more often than not passed on to consumers via higher prices.

Outside of restaurants, the prospect of a patchwork of local bans could be incredibly disruptive for supply chains in Florida. Different cities with vastly different rules could mean that manufacturers have to repurpose production lines based on Zip code, which, of course, is incredibly costly and time-consuming. Those costs are again, often passed on to consumers.

Florida’s communities can’t afford to wage a war on plastic with local bans. Instead, state government should show leadership on proper waste management. Leaning on innovative processes to deal with plastic waste ensures that plastics stay in the economy rather than ending up in the environment and avoids the trap of pushing consumers to high cost, and high impact, alternative products.

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager with the Consumer Choice Center.

Originally published here.

Banning single-use plastics won’t solve Florida’s pollution problem. Chemical recycling will

In early January, Democratic Florida lawmakers Linda Stewart and Mike Grieco introduced a bill to greenlight local plastic bans, previously prohibited by state statute. While the desire to keep plastic waste out of the environment is understandable, the fact is that plastic bans often do more harm for the environment than good.

Banning single-use plastic products can be more environmentally damaging because alternatives are even more wasteful.

When Denmark considered a ban on single-use plastic grocery bags, their studies found that they were far superior in comparison to alternatives. The Danes came to that conclusion based on 15 environmental benchmarks, including climate change, toxicity, ozone depletion, resource depletion and ecosystem impact. They calculated that paper bags would need to be reused 43 times to have the same total impact as a plastic bag. For cotton, the figures were even worse. A cotton bag has to be reused 7,000 times, while an organic version would need to be used 20,000 times to be on par with a single-use plastic bag.

Clearly, consumers do not reuse plastic alternatives anywhere near the number of times necessary to make a positive difference. Given the energy expended to make these alternatives, forcing consumers to use them because of a ban on plastic is a net negative if we care about the environment.

Beyond that, prospective local bans miss the mark on how we can actually deal with plastic waste. When we are talking about plastic waste in our environment, we are really talking about mismanaged litter. If plastics are ending up in Florida’s parks or on its beaches, that is a serious problem that needs to be dealt with. Luckily, there are a variety of innovative ways that plastic can be responsibly handled, that doesn’t involve banning entire product categories.

Rather than clearing a path for future bans, legislators should be narrowing their sights on better processes to reclaim plastic waste and investing in recycling through chemical depolymerization. Through depolymerization, virtually all plastic products can be broken down into their original building blocks and repurposed into other products. This means that traditionally single-use plastic products can have their lifespan extended indefinitely. This isn’t hypothetical — there are countless examples across North America where innovators take plastic waste, especially single-use products, and turn them into everything from resin pelletstiles for your home and even road asphalt.

Of course, the timing of prospective bans shouldn’t be ignored either. The pandemic has been devastating for bars and restaurants. Local bans on single-use items would force them to switch to costlier alternatives at the most inopportune time. Bans on plastic bags, cutlery, take-out containers or even bottles would be kicking these business owners right as they are trying to get back on their feet. The bans also impact consumers, not just by limiting consumer choice, but also by inflating business costs, which are more often than not passed on to consumers via higher prices.

Outside of restaurants, the prospect of a patchwork of local bans could be incredibly disruptive for supply chains in Florida. Different cities with vastly different rules could mean that manufacturers have to repurpose production lines based on Zip code, which, of course, is incredibly costly and time-consuming. Those costs are again, often passed on to consumers.

Florida’s communities can’t afford to wage a war on plastic with local bans. Instead, state government should show leadership on proper waste management. Leaning on innovative processes to deal with plastic waste ensures that plastics stay in the economy rather than ending up in the environment and avoids the trap of pushing consumers to high cost, and high impact, alternative products.

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager with the Consumer Choice Center.

Originally published here.

Philadelphia should reverse its plastic bag ban

Philadelphia’s pending ban on disposable plastic bags won’t just annoy consumers — it will actually hurt the environment. Alternatives to plastics have a much bigger eco-footprint.

The city of Philadelphia has officially paused its plastic bag ban, which will now be phased in over the next year and enforced by city officials in April of 2022. While consumer advocates appreciate the delay, the prospect of a bag ban is misguided — and will ultimately do more harm than good, including for the environment.

Why is that the case? Well, it’s largely because alternatives to single-use plastic bags come with serious negative environmental externalities. That might sound far-fetched to some, but that was the conclusion of Denmark’s Environment Ministry when it evaluated plastic bags versus reusables. 

Danish government researchers using 15 environmental benchmarks (including climate change, toxicity, ozone depletion, resource depletion and ecosystem impact) concluded that single-use plastic bags are often superior when compared to paper or cotton alternatives. So much so that paper bags, a common plastic replacement, needed to be reused 43 times to have the same total impact as a plastic bag. 

When it came to cotton alternatives, the numbers were even higher. A conventional cotton bag alternative needed to be used over seven thousand times to outpace a plastic bag in ecological effects, and an organic cotton bag had to be reused over twenty thousand times. Consumer usage patterns of those alternatives clearly show that they never get reused at the rate required for them to be environmentally advantageous, which means that in an effort to protect the environment, city officials are in fact passing a ban that will do more damage. The ban ends up being more environmental symbolism than environmental protection. 

And the Danes aren’t alone in their conclusions: The British government’s impact assessment on this very question drew the same conclusion.

Consumer usage patterns of those alternatives clearly show that they never get reused at the rate required for them to be environmentally advantageous.

Not only is the bag ban bad for the environment, it is bad policy for local retailers and their consumers. The pandemic has had an absolutely devastating impact on the food service sector, and the ban will ultimately make that impact worse by further inflating costs as retailers are forced to switch to higher-cost alternatives. After all, the reason plastic is so ubiquitous is that it’s easy to use, cheap and preferred by both consumers and retailers. When the full force of the ban takes effect in 2022, the inflated costs will be shouldered by consumers through higher prices.

Beyond the impact on the environment and the economy, the ban completely ignores viable methods to reclaim plastic waste to ensure it doesn’t end up as pollution or in landfills. As part of the city’s justification for banning plastics, it claimed that it takes ten thousand hours to sort the plastic bags out of waste piles, because the bags are not recyclable. That claim sidesteps the fact that once these bags are actually reclaimed, they can be repurposed through a process called chemical depolymerization, which for the layman, is the process of chemical recycling, where plastic is broken down into its original building blocks and repurposed into new products. 

Through recovery and chemical depolymerization, we can turn every piece of discarded plastic back into the same molecules it started from — and these transformations aren’t hypothetical. Across North America there are countless examples of plastics being repurposed into resin pellets, which extends the life of these plastics exponentially, and potentially, indefinitely. For single-use bags specifically, there are innovative projects underway where scientists take these items, alter their chemical bonds and bind them with bitumen to be used to pave roads. The end result is lighter asphalt made with recycled plastic that won’t leach into the soil or waterways. Giving plastic waste a second life in this way creates jobs and fosters innovation — the true solution to so many of our environmental ills. Just as importantly, it ensures that plastics remain in the economy rather than ending up in the environment. 

Simply put, plastic usage can be something we deal with and even benefit from, without having to resort to heavy-handed bans. Leaning on innovators to better deal with plastic waste is a solution that avoids high-impact alternatives, maximizes consumer choice, manages waste properly and actually benefits the environment.

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager at the Consumer Choice Center.

Originally published here.

Le Québec peut être un leader du plastique sans Trudeau

Au cours de la pandémie, le plastique est devenu un mal nécessaire pour répondre aux contraintes sanitaires.  

Qu’il s’agisse de l’équipement de protection individuelle, des boîtes de repas à emporter ou encore des cloisons en plexiglas dressées afin de protéger les clients au restaurant, il est devenu omniprésent. 

L’ubiquité de cette matière n’est pas nouvelle, mais son utilité dans l’ère de la COVID est marquante. Pourtant, cela ne change rien quant à son caractère polluant. Personne ne souhaite répandre cette matière dans la nature, surtout pas dans nos fleuves et autres cours d’eau. 

C’est la raison pour laquelle le premier ministre du Québec François Legault a annoncé l’élargissement du système de consigne. Ce faisant, il cherche à mieux recycler les bouteilles de plastique. Le ministre de l’Environnement, Benoit Charrette, a aussi révélé des plans afin de réduire la consommation de plastique des entreprises dans l’espoir de mieux recycler leurs déchets. 

Il y a aussi des centaines d’entrepreneurs québécois dans l’industrie du recyclage qui deviennent de plus en plus efficaces et grossissent à vue d’oeil. L’usine de Lavergne à Montréal en est un bel exemple, tout comme Plastiques GPR de Saint-Félix-de-Valois. Ces deux entreprises comptent des clients partout à travers le monde et aident à faire rayonner le Québec. 

La popularité de ces initiatives est le fruit des efforts de l’industrie et du gouvernement du Québec. 

Le plastique n’est pas toxique

Il semble aujourd’hui qu’Ottawa cherche à aller se chercher une part de cette gloire. En octobre, le gouvernement de Justin Trudeau a déclaré qu’il désignerait le plastique comme une substance toxique selon l’annexe 1 de la Loi canadienne sur la protection de l’environnement. Cela interdirait l’utilisation d’articles en plastique à usage unique tels que les sacs en plastique, les pailles, les bâtonnets à mélanger, les ustensiles et les récipients de polystyrène. 

Cette décision du gouvernement nous inquiète pour deux raisons. Tout d’abord, nous savons tous que les produits en plastique ne sont pas toxiques. Ce n’est pas comme l’amiante et le plomb, deux autres produits déjà identifiés par cette loi. Pourquoi reléguer une matière d’une si grande utilité au même statut que des substances cancérigènes ? Cela ne fait aucun sens. 

Ensuite, cela fait fi du travail des entrepreneurs et entreprises innovantes cherchant des solutions concrètes pour résoudre le problème de pollution, notamment en travaillant sur le cycle de vie de ces manières. Bannir ces matières ou les considérer « toxiques » vient éliminer les solutions privées qui ont été développées par nos entrepreneurs et innovateurs locaux. Ce rejet des solutions innovantes est inquiétant. 

Qui plus est, Ottawa vient empiéter une fois de plus sur les efforts des provinces pour lutter contre ces matières résiduelles. Le Québec et l’Alberta ont déjà mis en place des plans afin de réduire la consommation de plastiques. Ces plans conçus localement répondent mieux aux besoins de leurs citoyens que ceux imposés par Ottawa. 

La reclassification du plastique est loin d’être une bonne solution. C’est plutôt une démarche cynique du gouvernement Trudeau visant à justifier son empiétement sur un domaine de compétence provinciale et répondre maladroitement aux demandes des groupes environnementaux. 

Un bien indispensable

S’il est nécessaire d’applaudir les efforts pour réduire la consommation de plastiques, il est tout aussi important d’être réaliste : le plastique est un bien indispensable, et la pandémie nous l’a rappelé. L’important est de s’assurer qu’il ne se ramasse pas n’importe où et puisse être réutilisé ou bien recyclé. 

C’est grâce au génie québécois que nous pourrons disposer de notre plastique de façon responsable, et non grâce à une prohibition du gouvernement fédéral. Au lieu de laisser les provinces gérer leurs approches et les innovateurs trouver des solutions efficaces, le gouvernement fédéral a choisi la voie paresseuse de l’interdiction pure et simple de certains produits. Cela nuit à tout le monde, et particulièrement à nous tous, consommateur. 

Cette reclassification vient aussi créer une réelle incertitude sur ce qui pourrait être ajouté à la liste des produits toxiques dans un futur rapproché. 

Le Québec a montré qu’il est un leader dans le recyclage du plastique. Il est crucial qu’Ottawa lui permette de le demeurer. 

Yaël Ossowski, Directeur adjoint à L’Agence pour le choix du consommateur, un groupe mondial de défense des consommateurs

Originally published here.

The problem with the plastic debate

Plastic taxes are good intentions but bad economics.

The European Union’s new plastic tax has come into effect on January 1. You’ll see this new tax often described as an EU-tax that you pay directly as a consumer into a treasury in Brussels. While that indirectly true, it’s important to understand how it works. The plastic tax charges a tax of 80 Euro Cents per kilo of plastic packaging — so that doesn’t mean everything made out of plastic, just plastic packaging, and only applies to non-recyclable plastic packaging.

So who exactly pays this tax? The EU does not give clear directions on that, because the EU cannot implement taxes in member states. It seems reasonable that member states tax the manufacturers, but theoretically, they only need to send the required annual amount to the EU, which calculates the amount based on the amount of non-recyclable plastic packaging that was consumed in each country. 

The tax was decided at the European Council Summit back in July when EU leaders were struggling to find new revenue streams to fund the biggest budget in EU history. This tax will raise between 6 and 8 billion Euros per year, but that is hardly enough to make up for the needed money to fund EU programmes.

It is questionable whether the tax will have the desired effect. Those EU countries with industries producing non-recyclable plastic packaging will find a way to subsidise these companies, possibly even with EU funds. The people who will actually pay this tax are the consumers who will once again pay more for food, drinks, or hygiene products. 

What we should do is be tougher on plastic pollution. The pollution, that is the actual problem that people are trying to address, and which should have tougher fines for those who do the actual polluting. If you’re dumping plastic packaging into a river or the sea, you need to be held accountable for those actions.

This entire conversation is oddly similar to the discussion of plastic bag taxes, or all-out plastic bag bans. In 2011, the UK’s Environment Agency published an earlier-drafted life cycle assessment of supermarket carrier bags. The aim: establishing both the environmental impact of different carrier bags which are in use and their re-use practice. The intention was to inform public policymakers about the impact that a crackdown on plastic bags could possibly have. Needless to say, politicians had little concern for the actual assessment the report presented.

When analysing the global warming impact of each bag, the agency assessed the environmental impact according to abiotic depletion (the disposal of products produced by crude oil), acidification (impact on soil, freshwater bodies, and the oceans), eutrophication (nutrients contained in water), human toxicity, freshwater aquatic ecotoxicity, marine aquatic ecotoxicity, terrestrial ecotoxicity, and photochemical oxidation (air pollution).

The researchers then looked at the number of times that a bag would need to be reused in order to have the same environmental impact as the conventional HDPE (High-density polyethylene) bag that people are used to. They reach the following conclusion:

“In round numbers these are: paper bag – 4 times, LDPE bag – 5 times, non-woven PP bag – 14 times and the cotton bag – 173 times.”

The attentive reader will now ask the correct deductive question: so what are the re-use levels that we experience in practice? Or: do people’s behaviour reflect the environmental impact of shopping bags accordingly?

The report used two Australian studies that state the following life expectancy for the carrier bags mentioned earlier: paper bags (kraft paper) were found to be single-use, LDPE (low-density polyethylene) between 10 and 12 times, while non-woven PP (polypropylene) bags weren’t included (only woven HDPE bags had their life expectancy included), and cotton bags had 52 trips on average.

These findings may be an approximation, but even if we informed the public and doubled the re-use of alternative carrier bags, then paper and cotton bags wouldn’t even break even.

The bottom-line is: the EU’s new plastic packaging tax is motivated by the ambition to raise revenue, and is not necessarily informed by the best science. Not all that appears sensible on the surface will end up being the best policy to implement.

Originally published here.

A plastics ban will only make the pandemic consumer pinch worse

Plastic bags, stir sticks, straws, cutlery, six-pack rings and certain takeout containers — the six single-use plastic items that the Trudeau government is going to ban is a short list but the consequences of this policy will be long-lasting.

On the surface, banning these items may seem like a small step, but the government’s proposal uses Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), which means plastics would be improperly classified as “toxic” substances.

Let that sink in. The plastics we’ve used for months to wrap our takeout food, have items safely shipped to our doorsteps, and provide a barrier between health-care workers and the COVID-19 virus through N95 masks are now, according to the Canadian government, going to appear on a list of toxic substances.But we all know plastics aren’t toxic—they’re the opposite of a harmful or dangerous substance, something Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson admitted himself when the announcement was made in October. Nevertheless, regardless of what Minister Wilkinson’s intentions are, with this new classification “consumers would assume that every day and essential products that contain plastic are now toxic,” as noted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

So why is the government using Schedule 1 of CEPA? Because it provides the quickest and easiest pathway to product bans. There are effectively no hurdles ahead, and the Canadian government is running, and running fast.

The comment period on the federal government’s discussion paper, which outlines its plans broadly, closes on Dec. 9, providing industry, trade partners, and, most importantly, everyday Canadians a mere 60 days to provide comments – the bare minimum for a federal proposal of this nature.

This unilateral approach the government is taking could have broad ramifications that could actually undermine its policy goals and hurt consumers – not just in Canada, but also in the United States.

First and foremost, the federal government will not have to consult anyone if and when they decide to add new plastics products to this list down the line. That can mean anything from bottle caps to IV bags to car bumpers.

While it’s not necessarily clear what will be banned next, it’s certainly clear who will be bearing the financial burden of using plastic alternatives: consumers. Product bans require businesses to incur new costs for alternative products, and those costs are always passed on to consumers through higher prices.And the timing is particularly challenging given that consumers are already facing price increases in their daily lives. For example, as a result of an estimated 300 to 400 grocery stores closing in the coming year due to economic challenges, consumers will need to spend 5% to 7% more on groceries. During this critical moment the government should not enact measures that only magnify these burdens.

It’s also important to note that many alternatives to plastics have worse environmental impacts than those plastic products themselves. That can be for a number of reasons, including the weight of a product, which is an important factor when considering shipments of goods and the subsequent emissions, or the production and manufacturing of products themselves. Nonetheless, the government needs to slow down and conduct a more critical scientific assessment of the alternatives.

Ultimately, plastic waste is a problem that needs to be managed – both in Canada and abroad. Unfortunately, the Government’s approach to plastic completely forgoes the management side of waste management, and instead opts for banning entire product classes. Those impacted the most by this poorly timed and heavy handed ban will be you and I, who are simply consumers trying to safely navigate our way through this pandemic.

Originally published here.

Trudeau’s ‘plastic ban’ won’t help the environment. It could actually harm it instead

Opinion: Alternatives have a significantly higher total impact on the environment, while inflating costs for consumers

By David Clement

This week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his government will seek to ban many single-use plastics starting in 2021. Although the final list of banned items is still undetermined, it will likely include plastic bags, takeaway containers, cutlery and straws. To further justify the ban, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna cited images of marine wildlife being injured or killed as a result of plastic in our oceans.

It’s a hard-to-resist pitch. No one wants to contribute to marine deaths as a result of plastic, and most of us don’t like the idea of plastic items taking over 1,000 years to decompose in landfills. These concerns ultimately stem from worries about climate change, and the environmental problems that could arise as a result.

Unfortunately for the environmentally conscious among us, a ban on single-use plastics does almost nothing for the issue of plastics impacting ocean marine life, and does very little in terms of environmental impact. Canadians are not significant polluters when it comes to marine litter. Up to 95 per cent of all plastic found in the world’s oceans comes from just 10 source rivers, which are all in the developing world.

William Watson: After banning disposable plastics, Trudeau may be a disposable prime minister
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Canada on average, contributes less than 0.01 MT (millions of metric tonnes) of mismanaged plastic waste. In contrast, countries like Indonesia and the Philippines contribute 10.1 per cent and 5.9 per cent of the world’s mismanaged plastic, which is upwards of 300 times Canada’s contribution. China, the world’s largest plastics polluter, accounts for 27.7 per cent of the worlds mismanaged plastic. Canada, when compared to European countries like England, Spain, Italy, Portugal and France, actually contributes four times less in mismanaged plastic. The only European countries on par with Canada are the significantly smaller Sweden, Norway and Finland. A plastics ban might sound productive in terms of plastics pollution, but the evidence doesn’t suggest that Canada is actually a significant contributor for mismanaged plastic, which means that a Canadian ban will do little to aid marine life devastatingly impacted by plastic pollution.

However, proponents will say we should still support the ban on the basis of trying to curb climate change. Although noble, banning plastics doesn’t necessarily equate to better environmental outcomes. In fact, some alternative products, although branded as green alternatives, have a significantly higher total environmental impact once the production process is factored in.

Take plastic bags for example, which are public enemy number one. Conventional thinking suggests that banning single-use plastic bags will result in people using reusable bags, and that this reduction in plastic use will have a positive impact on the environment. Research from Denmark’s Ministry of the Environment actually challenged that conventional wisdom when it sought to compare the total impact of plastic bags to their reusable counterparts. The Danes found that alternatives to plastic bags came with significant negative externalities. For example, common paper bag replacements needed to be reused 43 times to have the same total impact as a plastic bag. When it came to cotton alternatives, the numbers were even higher. A conventional cotton bag alternative needed to be used over 7,100 times to equal a plastic bag, while an organic cotton bag had to be reused over 20,000 times. We know from consumer usage patterns that the likelihood of paper or cotton alternatives being used in such a way is incredibly unlikely. These results were also largely confirmed with the U.K. government’s own life-cycle assessment, which concluded that these alternatives have a significantly higher total impact on the environment.

While Canadians might support the idea of a plastics ban, they don’t want to pay for it. A Dalhousie University study showed us that 89 per cent of Canadians are in support of legislation to limit plastics. However, that same study also showed that 83 per cent of Canadians were not willing to pay more than 2.5- per-cent higher prices for goods as a result of plastic regulations. This creates a significant problem for Trudeau’s ban, because higher prices are exactly what we’d see.

There are simple solutions available to us that don’t involve heavy-handed bans. First, we could focus more strictly on limiting how plastics end up in our rivers, lakes and streams. Better recycling programs and stricter littering prohibitions could go a long way to curbing the plastic Canada does contribute. For those single-use products that otherwise end up in landfills, we could follow Sweden’s lead, and incinerate that waste. Doing so creates a power source for local communities, while capturing airborne toxins, limiting toxic runoff, and significantly reducing the volume of waste.

Good public policy should address a real problem and should make a meaningful impact on the said problem. Unfortunately, Trudeau’s proposed single-use plastics ban would have little to no impact on overall ocean waste, while promoting high-impact alternatives, and inflating costs for consumers. All three of these factored together create a fairly toxic policy mix.

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager with the Consumer Choice Center.

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Ah … because oil is the problem, eateries (and patrons) pay the price

Jeff Stier of the Consumer Choice Center says all Americans are affected by what happens in the oceans and should all work to reduce pollution – but that doesn’t justify banning all uses of products, he argues.S “And it’s not only to ban plastics because they claim it winds up in the ocean,” he adds, “but [also] […]

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