There was a time when the United States led the world in environmental protection. That position has now been taken over by Europe on areas ranging from eliminating fossil fuels to recycling. Now the European Parliament is about to take a bold stand against plastic pollution ruining our oceans with a ban on single use plastics. This comes at a time when plastics not only are close to outnumbering fish in the ocean but plastic saturation in the environment and food chain have been found to have contaminated human bodies.
The European Parliament has voted for a complete ban on products like plastic cutlery and plates, cotton buds, straws, drink stirrers and balloon sticks. It also calls for a reduction in single-use plastic for food and drink containers like plastic cups.
The EU hopes the ban will go into effect across the bloc by 2021.
While one can debate different approaches to dealing with the plastic problem, there is little being done nationally in the United States on the issue. Since the oceans remain the primary food source for humanity, we are watching Hardin “Tragedy of the Commons” play out on a global scale. Garrett Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons showed how the unregulated use of a common resources leads to its degradation or loss — even to the point of starving a population that destroys the resource needed for its survival.
39 thoughts on “EU Set To Ban Single-Use Plastics”
( I have tried to post a video clip of this 8 times…It won’t post.
My fellow graduates and I thought this scene was a riot when we first saw it. And we all howled at the thought of plastics being meaningful in our lives )
Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?
Mr. McGuire: There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?
from “The Graduate” 1967
Cindy Bragg – The Graduate is the film where Mike Nichols learned to edit film. 😉
No kidding?! Well he done good! When our daughter was at Loyola N’Orleans in the mid 90’s her boyfriend at the time was a film student. We were told that Loyola was one of very few schools in the country (at that time) that had a digital editing “machine” (?) and were teaching students how to edit digitally.
Cindy Bragg – re-watch the film just for the editing. It is well worth it.
Thanks, Paul C. I will….We all loved that music too of Simon and Garfunk’s. But the story was scandalous in our little Okla.town where we saw it. She was a MARRIED lady! LOL
Cindy Bragg – so, it is Hollywood and she is only about 4 years older than he is. 😉
Option A, the government banns what everyday materials consumers are allowed to buy. The result – exponentially higher food poisoning as people without any interest in reusable shopping bags are forced to buy them, and don’t know you have to clean them regularly. The cost of shopping increased for the poor. People start having to bring their own utensils to drive throughs, leaving dirty forks and knives rattling around in their cars. This leads to more accidental stabbings during car accidents.
Option B, there is a grassroots movement, much as what drove organic foods, for more sustainability and less waste.
I love the idea of less waste, in general. We are a consumer society. It is a complicated problem. Single Use plastic arose for cleanliness and hygiene, as well as convenience. Part of the problem is cultural. Some cultures value longevity of tools we use, and favor more expensive, well crafted tools and implements that last a long time. Many financially well off places, like ours, treat goods as throwaways. Others a bit newer to the industrialized world still have a culture that encourages people to throw trash and garbage on the ground, as if it would still break down like a natural substance. Belize is an example, where a lot of the people there just dump their trash on the ground. Perhaps they also do this because they live near the Sargasso Sea and its sink of Asian plastic refuse.
I would like to see more things made to be repairable here in the US. Take my clothesline, for instance. I love it. It’s a fairly expensive double clothesline. But if the clothesline gets left out during one of the ubiquitous smoky summer fire days, it gets a tar like substance on it that I can’t get off. It is not made to be able to open up and just replace the clothesline. You have to throw the whole thing away and buy a new one, when all you need to do is refresh the clothesline. What a waste.
The holier than thou tech industry drives a lot of the waste. Instead of building machines that are easy to upgrade, they are constantly selling us on the newest, best computer. An expensive machine is obsolete in 2 years, and after 7, it can’t be supported anymore. My laptop is 6 years old, but I still updated its memory rather than just buying a whole new one. eWaste is highly toxic. Recycled eWaste means it is often shipped to India, where little kids poke through toxic computer parts to find recyclable bits. eWaste recycling is dystopian.
There is a trend in tech gleaning, that not only diverts valuable resources from landfills, but it makes them more accessible to those without a lot of money, and can generate significant revenue.
The proliferation of plastic refuse in the ocean and elsewhere in the environment is a problem and it will worsen if nothing is done. But things can be done without cutting down on the beneficial use of plastics. Plastic items most likely to show up as pollution can either be recycled or made of degradable plastics. Ignoring the benefits of plastics and sensible solutions in favor of banning plastics assures that proposed solutions are not likely to be the best for society.
Nor is it helpful that many claims about the adverse consequences of plastic are exaggerated. Exaggerated claims about plastic refuse reduces the credibility of those making them and works against gaining the cooperation necessary to address the problems sensibly.
For example, the Ocean Cleanup Foundation put out a report titled “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch” (https://www.theoceancleanup.com/great-pacific-garbage-patch/) which was picked up by many media outlets. It characterized the Great Pacific Garbage Patch as an area of 1.6 million square kilometers, three times the size of continental France, with 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic weighing 80,000 metric tons. This sounds impressive – is it?
Converting all these impressive numbers to more familiar terms shows that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has about 0.00001 pounds of plastic per square foot or about 0.00016 ounces per square foot. This is not impressive and shows that the report was purposely written to give an exaggerated picture of the plastic refuse problem. In contrast to the impression given by the report, its own numbers imply that one of the supposedly worst concentrations of plastic refuse is cleaner than your home, your yard, your public park, and virtually all areas you have been in that you perceived as reasonably clean.
If Environmentalists want the cooperation of others, they need to avoid sensationalism and focus on facts and solutions that reflect that there is a cost-benefit tradeoff. Plastics may have adverse consequences, but they also save lives.
The last time Turley posted about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the size was reported as 600,000 square miles. The article put it in perspective by saying it was twice the size of Texas. Sounds scary.
I pointed out that 600,000 square miles is something like one third of 1% of Earth’s surface area. That sounds less scary. I don’t mean to downplay it. It’s a problem. But I’m not sure the average person comprehends how small Texas is relative to the size of the planet.
It occurred to me later how to put it in perspective in a way most people can grasp. Consider a 2000 square foot home. Now imagine you go into one of the closets and mark off a square about 2.5 feet on each side on the closet floor. That square is about the same proportion to the 2000 sqft home as the 600,000 square mile GPGP is to Earth’s surface.
At any rate, President Trump recently signed the “Save Our Seas” law, which apparently had unanimous support in Congress, to address it. It looks like it’s probably going to plus up NOAA’s budget by $10 million, which at the very least will make the NOAA bureaucrats happy.
I suspect free enterprise will solve the problem before government puts its pants on:
BTW, Garrett Hardin was a major creep.
Ban all petroplastic. Bioplastic ok.
Lets have a little calm.
The plastic found in poo is scientifically insignificant. We’re talking about a sample size of 8, not 800 or 8 million; eight, out of a population of 7.3 billion – that’s roughly one in one billion. Also, the researchers admit they do not know how the plastics entered into the subjects systems and they didn’t study harm.
The source of ocean plastics are overwhelmingly from Southeast Asia . Consequently, the EU’s action, and those of certain American cities and states, amount to little more than public relation and feel good measures with next to no impact to the problem.
Plenty of problems with plastic on land as well.
Every little bit of plastic banning helps.
Let’s ban left turns on roads too!!
One of the major package delivery companies schedules so that no left turns occur.
Some harm can be inferred from plastics whose monomers are carcinogenic and easily dissociate in the body, but that remains to be proven.
Even was such proof offered, any such data from a patient cohort of eight can’t be taken seriously.
Boycott plastic plates, plastic bus, straws in favor of paper products. Yeah ya have to grow trees for paper products. But you can easily burn paper, grind it up and use it for other things.
“There is a great future in plastics.”
“It also calls for a reduction in single-use plastic for food and drink containers like plastic cups.”
That is the heart of the problem. Calling for reduction isn’t enough. The amount of single use of plastics in food / beverage packaging is a far greater problem than piecemeal items such as those mentioned. Still, it is welcome news for conservation.
I agree. There are better alternatives for commercial packaging. The corporate infrastructure needs to step up and earn their privilege….but can they do it without passing on the cost?
Why wouldn’t they pass on the cost? They’re not non-profit organizations.
The Nanny State strikes again.
plastic garbage is a negative externality and it’s properly the subject of government regulation to address proper garbage disposal.
not everything the EU dictates is stupid, just because it comes from the Brussells bureaucracy
THE GREAT PACIFIC GARBAGE PATCH
A vast clump of floating plastics has swirled together in the South Pacific. Some estimates claim it covers an area as large as Texas. But it’s not entirely solid nor easy to photograph.
Since we are in the lead it’s about time they decided to play catch up.
I’m happy to say that our over the boarder trade with Mexico has worked to produce that situation vis a vis plastics automatically led by none other than the automotive industry and the parts made in Mexico for new cars built in Mexico and in the USA AND none other than Coca Cola.
There is a huge trade in on used Coca Cola bottles and caps and on metal cans including pop tops. Sometimes it just takes setting the right example and the obvious economic advantage.
There is also a distinct difference in the lesser amount of smoking and the far lesser amount of cigarette butts littering the landscape south of the border.
Now if we can just get California to join in. Especially the San Jose area.
Isn’t most of the plastic pollution caused by Asian countries and their lack of rules.
More officious silliness. And another argument to leave the European Union.
If you’re concerned about trash disposal on common property, an international convention agreeing to prohibit it and granting a franchise to navies to arrest people doing it as we capture pirates would seem to be in order. Prohibiting ordinary people from using plastic straws achieves almost nothing toward that end. Another piece of evidence the left and the administrative class is now dominated by the character and personality type you see among the lesser sort of elementary schoolteacher.
Tabby, nothing to be concerned about? ‘Full speed ahead with plastics’..?? ‘Only nutty leftists care about the oceans’..??
That’s not what he said.
Do you work for CNN?
There is intelligence there somewhere. The over use of plastics is obvious in almost every instance. Objects are boxed, wrapped in plastic, boxed again and then again wrapped in plastic. The solutions are several, not just one, ie banning certain uses of plastic. However, any reduction of the output of plastics is necessary.
The status quo, those that lobby and/or own government officials are primarily to blame. Biodegradable plastics made from hemp, soy, and other organic materials would reduce the problem significantly. The problem here is although a new industry would create jobs, new wealth, and reduce the plastics problem, it would reduce the profits of the fossil fuel industry; so the government officials who owe their positions to the billions of dollars paid by the oligarchical status quo won’t get behind that technology.
A pay at the pump source of funding for this new industry as well as more comprehensive recycling and waste management control is also thwarted by the status quo. If one had to pay a few pennies more for whatever product was plastic wrapped, it would be negligible; think bottle and cans. When someone can get 10 cents for a bottle, many more get returned. This is were a strong federal government comes in. Unfortunately we don’t have a democracy so we won’t get a strong and intelligent government of any sort.
The problem is multi faceted and therefore must be approached from every perspective. Increased waste management would create new jobs, more wealth, and reduce the plastics in the environment. Alternate organic and biodegradable sources of material would reduce the plastics in the environment. When you go to the polls think about who is cutting back on protecting the environment, tossing a few coins to the mob, and adding trillions to the deficit.
That’s obviously because we don’t have a democracy but a Republic a fact lost on the left wing extremists
As usual a mechanically stupid waste of space full of false premises and other fallacious crap.
We have a Republic, if we can keep it. It is neither paper or plastic.
We have an oligarchy. No other country sells its politicians for, these mid terms over two billion, 2016 election two billion. There is what you call it and then there is what it is, an oligarchy. Follow the money. Who is that naive so as to believe that Soros, the Koch Bros., etc fork over hundreds of millions because the believe in this or that. It’s because that is the cost of buying a government. In Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany, etc. it is against the law for corporations and/or gazillionaires to donate more than a pittance to any politician. That is democracy, republic or whatever you want to call it. What it is here in the so called cradle of democracy is perverse and purchased.
EU sagacity bans plastic and admits terrorists. It needs to be banned. Any wonder England’s out; Italy wants to be; and Hungary and Poland ignore it.
And yet our life expectancy is higher than in the past. What a horrible world we have made.
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