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Plastic

More plastics bans will not impact the environment but will impact consumers


“Up to 95% of all plastic found in the world’s oceans comes from just 10 source rivers, which are all in the developing world.”

Policy makers at all levels have declared effective war on plastics. Municipalities have enacted water bottle bans, provinces have sought to restrict or prohibit the sale of certain items, and the federal government has gone so far as to classify all plastic as “toxic” under the Canadian Environment Protection Act. 

The arguments against these policies have been well documented. Alternatives to single use plastics are almost always worse for the environment based on a life cycle analysis, and there are new innovations available to use that actually deal with the issue of mismanaged plastic waste, rather than using the long arm of the state to ban items.

All of that said, you would think that the environmental activists who pushed for these policies would be content with their policy victory, but they aren’t. As always, they want more, which ultimately means more government involvement in the economy, and in the lives of consumer.

Oceana, for example, was one of the loudest voices calling for all sorts of heavy-handed policies to deal with plastic waste. Unfortunately, Canadians have given these advocates an inch, and now they want to take a mile.

Just this month Oceana launched a new campaign titled “A Plastic Free July” where they are calling on the government to drastically expand on their incoming single use plastic ban to almost everything except medical devices. Their statement reads “As currently proposed, the federal government’s ban on six single-use plastics covers less than one percent of the plastic products we use – a drop in the bucket for an ocean drowning in plastic waste.”

Oceana is right, those products represent a small percentage of the plastic that ends up in our oceans. But their conclusion that we need to “ban more things” won’t magically mean that there is less plastic in the ocean, mostly because Canadians, and single use plastics, are not responsible for the vast majority of mismanaged plastic in our oceans. 

Up to 95% of all plastic found in the world’s oceans comes from just 10 source rivers, which are all in the developing world. 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% and 5.9% 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% of the world’s 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

Beyond the fact that Canadians are not significant contributors to the issue of marine plastic waste, most of the plastic in our oceans, regardless of the source country, isn’t from consumer products at all. Approximately 50% of all plastic in the ocean comes directly from the fishing industry, who often carelessly dump used nets in the ocean, which is a serious problem in need of a solution.

These two inconvenient truths should raise immediate red flags as to the efficacy of plastic bans, and should cause us to outright reject calls for more bans on consumer products. These bans won’t make any serious impact on the issue of plastic waste in our oceans, all while making life more expensive for ordinary Canadians, while pushing them to alternative products with a higher environmental impact. 

Rather than caving to a call for expanded bans, or the silly idea of a “Plastic Free July.” we should instead narrow our sights on empowering innovators to solve these problems. Incredible technologies have been created in Alberta in the past few years to deal with plastic waste, which include taking single-use products and turning them into everything from resin pelletstiles for your home and even road asphalt. Even better, scientists have now figured out a way to take these problematic plastics, flash heat them, and turn them into graphene, which is currently priced at around $100,000/tonne and has tremendous potential in the construction industry.

We realistically have two paths to deal with the plastic waste we produce. We can seek to ban items that people use, which will inflate prices and have no serious impact on marine waste. Or, we can lean on innovators to remove plastic from the environment and extend the lifespan of those plastics indefinitely, while creating jobs and lowering costs. When faced with this fork in the road, the superior path forward is pretty obvious.

Originally published here.

MINDEROO REPORT ON PLASTIC IGNORES CONSUMER COSTS

The Minderoo foundation released a report outlining the multinational corporations they claim are responsible for producing and financing single-use plastic products globally.

The report, which was internationally covered, calls for additional regulations to help curb the issue of mismanaged plastic waste. Unfortunately, their proposals largely ignore the immense consumer costs associated with increased regulatory efforts.

 “The Minderoo Foundation’s report on plastic waste completely ignores the additional costs to consumers that arise from heavy-handed regulations. Their suggestions, in addition to what has already been proposed by Congress, are a recipe for disaster that will significantly increase the prices paid by consumers”, said David Clement, North American Affairs Manager for the DC-based Consumer Choice Center.

“The Foundation’s report seems to ignore the fact that the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, and CLEAN Future Act, set the stage for a moratorium on permits for advanced recycling facilities. This is important because a polymer recycling mandate, like the one proposed in the report, is not feasible if Congress simultaneously bans the creation of new advanced recycling facilities.

“If Congress were to act on the Minderoo Foundation’s report, they would create a recycled content mandate while at the same time significantly limiting the ability of advanced recycling facilities to keep pace. That will cause demand for recycled plastics to skyrocket without creating the necessary infrastructure needed to increase the supply of recycled plastic, which will put tremendous upward pressure on prices. It would be a terrible outcome for consumers, especially given the financial uncertainty forced upon so many Americans because of the pandemic,” he added.

Originally published here.

Governor Northam signs single-use plastic ban

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed an executive order banning single-use plastics at state agencies to help decrease pollution. One advocacy worker says this action may cause more harm than good.

“Alternatives to single-use plastics aren’t always environmentally advantageous. They’re not always better for the environment, in comparison to single-use plastic items,” said North American Affairs Manager for Consumer Choice Center David Clement.

Clement adds the order is heavy-handed and overlooks the more viable solution of recycling or breaking down and re-claiming plastics to be used again.

“There are innovative examples from across North America where scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs are taking these problematic plastics, they are altering their chemical bonds and then repurposing them into resin pellets, into tiles for your home, into high-strength graffing which is used in construction, and there are even examples where they fused these repurposed plastics with bitumen and turned them into highly durable roadways,” Clement said. “So this approach empowers innovation to solve the issue of plastic waste, it creates jobs and it does it while protecting the environment.”

Clement adds Northam has signed an advanced recycling bill into law to address this alternative, and the ban will not affect privately owned spaces like grocery stores.

Originally published here.

Is Now The Time For A War On Plastic?

On Wednesday, the international consumer advocacy group Consumer Choice Center released a policy paper detailing the war on plastic, federal and state efforts at mitigating plastic waste, and potential legislative steps to better protect our environment.

In Deconstructing The War On Plastic the authors evaluate the issue of plastic waste in the United States including that of single-use plastics and alternatives and examine if legislative efforts to curb plastic waste will ultimately better serve the environment.

“In our report we highlight how local or state bans on plastic products often come with high negative environmental externalities,” said co-author Yaël Ossowski. “These bans ultimately push consumers to high-impact alternatives, and don’t necessarily reduce the total amount of plastic used by consumers. Rather than trying to ban their way out of this problem, we propose that state and local governments better collaborate to expand advanced recycling,” said Ossowski, also deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center.

“At the federal level, the combination of the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act and the CLEAN Future Act will make tackling plastic waste significantly more difficult. Both acts seek to put a moratorium on permits for advanced recycling facilities. This incredibly problematic because it hamstrings recycling efforts, which limits the nation’s ability to properly recycle plastic waste,” said co-author David Clement, North American Affairs Manager at CCC.

“Not only that, but the acts also seek to create a recycled content mandate for plastic products. Creating demand for recycled plastic, while at the same time limiting the capacity of plastic recycling facilities, is a recipe for disaster; specifically, one where demand for recycled plastic rapidly outpaces supply, which will drastically increase prices,” added Clement.

The authors propose a 4-step solution for the issue of plastic waste:

1) A ban on the export of plastic waste to countries that fail to meet environmental stewardship standards.

2) The expansion of advanced recycling and chemical depolymerization permits.

3) Embrace innovation and market solutions. There are a variety of new biodegradable plastics being brought to market, and those market solutions should be permitted to continue to develop.

4) Evaluate market mechanisms to price waste accordingly, so that externalities of mismanaged waste are not offloaded onto communities. We propose a full review of how the US can effectively price waste, in consultation with both consumers and producers.

Originally published here.

Europe Shouldn’t Follow Congress’ War on Plastic

Europe should steer clear of these heavy handed, and counterproductive initiatives…

At the Federal level in the United States, Congress has declared a war on plastics, specifically with the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act and the CLEAN Future Act. Their goal is to ultimately reduce the amount of plastic waste that the US produces, which would in turn result in lower rates of mismanaged plastic ending up in the environment. On its face, the goals of congress are noble, but their policy prescriptions are incredibly misguided. It would be disastrous for Europeans if the EU followed America’s lead and replicated either of these Acts.

Replicating the CLEAN Future Act or the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act would be a disaster for Europe for two main reasons.

The first is that Congress is attempting to enact a moratorium on permits for plastic manufacturing facilities. The purpose of this is to stop the expansion of this industry, which in theory protects the environment from the emissions associated with production. But this fails to recognize that there are legitimate and environmentally conscious reasons to choose plastic over competing products. Take, for example, the shipment of baby food. Baby food in plastic containers, as opposed to glass alternatives, generates 33% feweremissions because of the energy required in the production of plastic and its lighter weight in transportation. Although this is just one niche example, this same principle could be applied to a near-infinite number of plastics.

Beyond questions on sustainability and competing products, the moratorium reeks of regulatory capture. For those unfamiliar, regulatory capture is when new laws are passed that insulate an existing industry from future competition, allowing them to solidify its market share. The bill’s moratorium on plastic facilities shields the existing industry from competition, and ensures that more environmentally conscious competitors are kept out of the market entirely. This is important for both those who oppose cronyism and corporate welfare, and those who want better environmental policies, especially because there are new almost entirely biodegradable plastic products coming to market. Preventing permits for innovators benefits the existing industry at the expense of consumers and the environment.

On top of a moratorium on plastic manufacturing, the Acts also seek to implement a moratorium on advanced recycling permits and chemical depolymerization. Through chemical depolymerization, all plastic can be either recycled, repurposed, or converted. Chemical depolymerization is the process of breaking down plastics, altering their bonds, and repurposing them into other products. There are countless examples of why this technology is key to dealing with mismanaged plastics, with innovators turning problematic plastic into everything from resin pelletsroadwaystiles for your home, and high strength graphene. If the US wants to tackle plastic waste, the federal government can’t at the same time limit advanced recycling capacity. By capping recycling facilities, these bills prevent the scalability of recycling efforts, which creates a giant hurdle for dealing with plastic waste. The goal of legislation should be to make recycling more affordable, which is only possible through more competition. 

To make matters worse, these Acts also create a recycled content mandate. This type of mandate has its pros and cons, but it is disastrous if it is enforced alongside a permit cap on advanced recycling.

Creating a recycled content mandate will drastically increase, by decree, the demand for

recycled plastic. In fact, the BFFPP Act, if followed through with the CLEAN Future Act,

would mandate upwards of 25% recycled content in plastic bottles by 2025, and 80% by 2040.

The issue here is that these mandates will limit the capacity of advanced recyclers to meet that demand. If there is a significant uptick in the demand for recycled plastic, and advanced recycling is not allowed to scale up to meet demand, we could see a situation where demand rapidly outpaces supply, which will only serve to drive prices upwards. Those inflated costs will mostly be shouldered by consumers, who will have those costs passed on to them in the form of higher prices. This trend is exactly what was seen in other countries who passed bio-ethanol mandates, which had the negative effect of significantly increasing prices for the crops used in the creation of ethanol. 

Europe should steer clear of these heavy handed, and counterproductive initiatives. Rather than doubling down on restrictions, Europe should embrace innovation and advanced recycling, which both enhances consumer choice and protects the environment. 

Originally published here.

‘Break Free’ Bill Will Do More Harm Than Good to the Environment

Everyone knows that plastic waste is a problem, and America’s record on recycling isn’t great. Less than 9% of all plastic waste is recycled, which unfortunately means that the bulk of that waste is left to sit in landfills taking decades to decompose, or worse, dumped into the environment. Plastic waste is a serious problem, but two new pieces of legislation focus on harming plastic production, not addressing plastic waste.

The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act has been reintroduced in the House and Senate, deals more with trying to end the production of plastics, not address plastic waste through recycling investments. Unfortunately, as written, the bill will do for more harm than good, both from a consumer perspective and for the environment. 

Break Free seeks to implement a moratorium on permits for all new plastic manufacturing. The purpose of this is to stop the expansion of this industry, which in theory protects the environment from the emissions associated with production. But this fails to recognize that there are legitimate, necessary and environmentally conscious reasons to choose plastic over competing products. Take, for example, the shipment of baby food. Baby food in plastic containers, as opposed to glass alternatives, generates 33% fewer emissions because of the energy required in the production of plastic and its lighter weight in transportation. Although this is just one niche example, this same principle could be applied to a near infinite number of plastic, especially in food packaging.

The recent Texas freeze, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, exposed significant gaps in the supply chain for plastics. As a result of plant closures in response to the freeze, major auto manufacturers were forced to halt production due to a lack of plastic parts, building companies faced record shortages for adhesives and siding, and PVC piping companies failed to meet their contractual obligations with buyers. A moratorium on new plants mandates that this vulnerable supply chain remain intact in its current and mismanaged state, removing any chance at correction.

Like Break Free, the recently introduced CLEAN Future Act includes not only a moratorium on new plastic production, but a moratorium on permits for advanced recycling facilities. Advanced recycling allows for all plastic, yes all plastic, to be either recycled, repurposed, or converted into other products. There are countless examples of why this technology is key to dealing with mismanaged plastics, with innovators turning problematic plastic into everything from resin pelletsroadwaystiles for your home, and high strength graphene. If the United States wants to tackle plastic waste, the federal government can’t, at the same time, limit advanced recycling capacity. By capping recycling facilities, the bill prevents the scalability of recycling efforts, which creates a giant hurdle for dealing with plastic waste. 

A cap on facilities plus a cap on advanced recycling is even more problematic when you consider that both pieces of legislation aim to create a recycled content standard, which will mandate that plastic products be made with a certain percentage of recycled plastic. This type of mandate has its pros and cons, but it is disastrous if it is enforced alongside permit caps that limit recycling.

Originally published here.

L’audace piano climatico di BIDEN non dovrebbe vietare la plastica

Riteniamo interessante riportare l’analisi che David Clement, del Consumer Choice Center per il Nord America, fa dei primi passi di Biden sul fronte della politica climatica e delle probabili decisioni sulla plastica.

Il presidente Biden ha subito riaffermato l’adesione degli Stati Uniti all’accordo di Parigi sul clima confermando le aspettative che vedono nella nuova amministrazione un deciso difensore dell’ambiente. Gli ambientalisti hanno applaudito le prime azioni del presidente, e stanno spingendo per fare di più. Greenpeace vuole che Biden dichiari guerra alla plastica e il comitato editoriale del Los Angeles Times ha sollecitato restrizioni sulla plastica monouso in tutte le future politiche.

È assai probabile che l’amministrazione Biden metterà la plastica nel mirino, ma ci si dovrebbe chiedere se i divieti sulla plastica sono, nel complesso, positivi per l’ambiente e il clima. Molte delle ricerche e delle esperienze di altri paesi ci indicano la direzione opposta. Quando la Danimarca ha preso in considerazione la messa al bando delle borse di plastica monouso per la spesa, le ricerche condotte hanno dimostrato che queste erano migliori rispetto alle alternative. I danesi sono arrivati a questa conclusione basandosi su 15 parametri ambientali, tra cui il cambiamento climatico, la tossicità, l’esaurimento dell’ozono, l’esaurimento delle risorse e l’impatto sugli ecosistemi. Hanno calcolato che i sacchetti di carta dovrebbero essere riutilizzati molte volte per avere lo stesso impatto totale di un sacchetto di plastica. Lo stesso vale per i sacchetti di cotone. Se l’ambiente è la nostra preoccupazione, vietare i sacchetti di plastica è un fatto negativo. 

Ricercatori svizzeri, esaminando i contenitori per alimenti destinati ai bambini, hanno concluso che l’uso della plastica rispetto al vetro ha ridotto le emissioni grazie al peso inferiore e ai costi di trasporto più bassi. Questa stessa metrica si applica anche a molto altro, dagli imballaggi alimentari ai beni di consumo quotidiani. Limitare la plastica spingerebbe senza dubbio i consumatori verso alternative ad alto impatto, andando così contro gli obiettivi di sostenibilità e riduzione dei rifiuti.

Questo non significa negare il serio problema dei rifiuti di plastica mal gestiti. Se Biden vuole agire per rimuovere i rifiuti di plastica dal nostro ambiente, dovrebbe considerare pratiche di riciclaggio innovative che si stanno dimostrando efficaci, come la depolimerizzazione chimica. Ci sono progetti innovativi in corso in tutto il Nord America guidati da scienziati e imprenditori, che partendo da semplici plastiche, alterano i loro legami chimici e le ripropongono in pellet di resina, piastrelle per la tua casa e persino asfalto stradale. Questo approccio permette all’innovazione di risolvere i rifiuti di plastica, crea posti di lavoro e lo fa con un impatto ambientale minimo.

Ma per coloro che riconoscono il potenziale di questa innovazione, rimane ancora il problema delle microplastiche, che spesso finiscono nelle nostre fonti d’acqua. Fortunatamente, gli scienziati hanno una risposta anche qui. Utilizzando l’ossidazione elettrolitica, i ricercatori sono riusciti ad “attaccare” le microplastiche, scomponendole in molecole di C02 e acqua, il tutto senza altre sostanze chimiche. L’amministrazione Biden potrebbe abbracciare la scienza che rende queste tecnologie scalabili e sostenibili.

Se il presidente Biden vuole ascoltare la chiamata alla difesa del clima, ha tutti gli strumenti a sua disposizione per farlo. Ma invece di approvare costosi e inefficaci divieti sulla plastica, dovremmo guardare agli innovatori e agli scienziati che stanno offrendo una terza via sui rifiuti di plastica. Questa sarebbe il vero endorsment della scienza per il 21° secolo.

Originally published here.

DelVal Communities Sue for Right to Ban Plastic Bags. But What Does the Science Say?

Earlier this month, a handful of Delaware Valley communities sued the state over their right to choose to ban the sale and use of plastic shopping bags. The issue raises questions about local authority vs. state power, one that got tangled up in the public policy over handling the threat of COVID-19.

Interestingly the question few people are asking is “What does the science say?” The answer is far more complicated than plastic bag opponents have acknowledged.

On March 3, Philadelphia, West Chester, Narberth, and Lower Merion filed suit claiming GOP state lawmakers violated the constitution when they inserted a ban on banning plastic bags, straws and other single-use plastic products into the budget last year. However, Philly’s efforts to ban the bags go back to well before December 2019, when the city council passed an anti-bag ordinance. Four previous attempts to ban plastic bag use in the city failed.

That ban was blocked, not only by state lawmakers, but by the coronavirus pandemic, which gave plastic shopping bags a second life.

Concerns about “surface contagion” made reusable cloth bags, carried in and out of homes and stores, a pathogen-carrying pariah. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced on April 22 — Earth Day, ironically — the city was postponing the July 1, 2020 start date for its bag ban.

“This is not an announcement we want to make during Earth Week. We know the climate crisis and plastic pollution remain two very serious threats to our planet and society, even during the global pandemic,” the mayor said.

Politicians throughout the country took similar steps. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, issued an executive order urging residents “to keep reusable bags at home given potential risks to baggers, grocers, and customers.” In New York, a state senator called for the state’s plastic bag prohibition to be suspended for similar reasons.

Meanwhile, in Harrisburg, lawmakers in 2020 extended a 2019 moratorium on plastic bag bans by placing it inside a budget bill (HB1083) just hours before a full vote by the General Assembly. The measure banned municipalities from imitating fees or restrictions on single-use plastics, such as bags and utensils.

The measure, in effect, prevented Philadelphia from implementing its 2019 plastic bag ban It also postponed bag bans in West Chester and Narberth, and stalled a similar ban from going forward in Lower Merion. Left unchallenged, this meant bag bans in all four municipalities could not be implemented until November 2021.

And so now they’re suing.

“In Philadelphia and across the commonwealth, local governments are increasingly concerned about the health and environmental effects of plastic bags,” Mayor Kenney said. “Yet, once again, we face a state legislature that is focused more on tying the hands of cities and towns than on solving the actual problems facing Pennsylvania.”

According to a WHYY report, the Commonwealth Court lawsuit challenges “the state’s ban on the bans, at least until July 1, 2021, or six months after Gov. Tom Wolf lifted the COVID-19 state of emergency. Under the current state of emergency, that would delay the implementation of the municipal bans at least until November of this year.”

Philadelphia officials say they will enact the bag ban on July 1, regardless of state law. If that happens, the result could be Pennsylvania’s attorney general, Democrat Josh Shapiro, representing the state against the liberal stronghold of Philadelphia and over an issue Democrats have widely embraced.

Meanwhile, state Rep. John Hershey (R-Juniata County), who supports the state’s actions, said the bans would have a negative effect on the livelihoods of the families who live and work near the Novolex plastics plant in Milesburg.

This puts the “small-government” GOP in a fight against local governance, a principle Republicans tend to embrace.

Amid the complex politics, however, a larger issue remains largely ignored: Are plastic bag bans smart environmental policy?

If the goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the science is settled: No. Multiple studies have confirmed that, as Stanford Magazine put it,”single-use plastic bags have the smallest carbon footprint.” A report from the MIT Office of Sustainability concluded: “Based on greenhouse gas emissions of material production, the paper bag would require five uses in order to have a lower impact per use than the polyethylene bag, whereas the jute bag would require 19.”

And it’s not just in the U.S. David Clement of the Consumer Choice Center wrote for InsideSources: “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.”

But what about litter and plastic pollution in the water? Delaware Valley Journal recently reportedon a study from the nonprofit environmental advocacy group PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center that found samples from every one of the state’s 53 popular waterways contained microplastics.

But despite complaints about plastic bags fouling our streets and sewers, the definitive litter study—the 2009 Keep America Beautiful Survey—found all retail plastic bags (which includes sandwich bags, dry cleaning bags, etc) account for just 0.6 percent of visible litter nationwide.

And a recent study revealed the United States is responsible for about 1 percent of the plastic litter in the world’s oceans.

Jenn Kocher, a spokeswoman for Republican state Sen. Jake Corman, said the desire of local municipalities to enact bans on single-use plastic ought to be balanced with economic concerns, as well as the loss of jobs. Corman stated that “bans hurt the economy” and that “the employers that manufacture these bags provide family-sustaining jobs in communities throughout Pennsylvania.”

Originally published here

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.

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