If we can’t be bothered to clean up after ourselves, then it’s time for our government to tax us into submission.
It seems like every day there is another news article about how plastic is invading our lives, our environment and even our bodies. There are plastic particles in our drinking water, table salt and in the fish and wildlife we eat. It’s everywhere and the problems seem to be getting worse and worse.
The reality is that plastics are everywhere. They’re cheap. They’re light. They’re versatile. They’re efficient. They’re germ free and sterile. But most importantly: Their improper disposal is contaminating our world. Plastic waste is having a major negative impact on our air, water and land. In fact, they’ve infiltrated every part of our ecosystem, we turn a blind eye because plastics are easy, and we are lazy.
That’s why we quietly accept when the State of Pennsylvania grants Royal Dutch Shell $1.6 billion in tax credits to build a plant that will produce more than a million tons of plastic and spew 2.2 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. That’s the equivalent of putting another 480,000 cars on the road. This is only one of a dozen projects under way or proposed around the world. This will unquestionably make a bad environmental situation into something much worse.
Convenience and laziness are reasons why we look the other way when we see news items about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This island of floating plastics is the size of Texas, does not affect our daily lives so we don’t worry about it or about the additional 8 million tons of plastic flowing into our oceans each year. We just hope the scientists can figure out how to clean it up before it destroys our oceans and the occupants therein. In the meantime, we have more import things to worry about, such as how to get our lunch leftovers home without anything leaking out onto the seat of our car.
Plastic has its place, for sure! It’s wonderful in construction, auto, and manufacturing of durable goods. If that is all we used it for I’d be singing its praises in this blog. The trap is that we produce millions upon millions of tons of single use plastic that never see the benefit of reuse or recycling. These items include shopping bags, garbage bags, plastic and Styrofoam clam shells, cups, straws, bottles, shrink wrap, and all kinds of other household and commercial goods to lengthy to list.
It’s time to stop using the excuse that the problem is “too big” for us as individuals to fix. You can see the impact that a single viral video of a sea turtle with a straw up its nose has made. As a result, Cities have banned plastic straws, so have Disney, Starbucks, and major restaurant chains. It’s only a start. In fact, it’s a really tiny fraction of what needs to be accomplished, but nonetheless, it is a start.
Since the early 1970’s states have introduced bottle deposit laws that I have until now strongly opposed. It goes against everything I believe in. Government should not be charging unfair taxes, creating unfair competition, or mandating how we dispose of our non-hazardous household and business items. Simply put it’s none of their business! So, what’s changed? After reading way too much about plastic, I no longer would classify waste plastic as “non-hazardous”. We each eat about a credit card sized portion every week! It needs to be dealt with seriously.
The “The State mandated Bottle Bill”, requires every retailer to charge a minimum of a 5-cent deposit on each beverage can and bottle sold. The effect of this regulation has been positive. The recycling rates in these states is arguably double those of non-bottle bill states. Statistics range from 20% -30% in open states to over 50% in bottle bill states. What’s incredible is that the states that have 10-cent deposits boast about over 90% compliance.
Another blaring statistic is that after California banned plastic bags and instituted a 10-cent charge on paper bags, people embraced reusable bags and the amount of plastic bag litter dropped 72% in the state.
We see clearly that financial disincentive is a great motivator. We also clearly see the damage we are doing to our environment is significant. It’s now time to urge our legislators to financially motivate us to be responsible, since clearly, we haven’t made good decisions up until now. If lobbying government is too big a commitment for you, then take smaller steps. Start minimizing your waste by buying items in bulk. Say “no” to the bag and start using refillable beverage containers. The damage we have already done may not be easily reversable, but YOU can prevent further catastrophe.
Need more value out of your waste program?
Marshall Staiman, LEED Green Associate
President at Talismark
The author is an owner at Talismark, a national waste and recycling outsource management company that services retail and commercial businesses throughout the United States. He is Harvard Business School case study participant and lecturer, he’s been featured in Forbes magazine, and has placed on Inc. 500/5000 list of fastest growing companies two years running.
Talismark is a Waste Solutions Management Company that custom designs waste management programs to champion sustainability and compliance with measurable results. Creating a customer experience that captures value, reduces cost, and saves resources!