Not-so-fun facts about plastic waste
Every year Americans reportedly throw away 100 billion plastic grocery bags.
Plastic bags contribute to climate disruption. They are made from oil, and more than 1.6 billion gallons of oil are used each year for bags alone. [Huffington Post]
Fewer than 1% of bags are recycled. (It’s labor-intensive and not cost-effective.)
[Director of San Francisco’s Department of the Environment]
Plastic bags do not biodegrade, within any meaningful human time-scale. Those cute little microorganisms that compost organic waste don’t recognize polyethylene as food.
[Slate, quoting research by Algalita Marine Research Foundation 6/27/07]
Plastic bags do photo-degrade into smaller, more toxic petro-polymers, which contaminate soils and waterways. Microscopic particles enter the food chain.
Hopeful solution-oriented facts
These countries have banned plastic bags: Bangladesh, China, Hong Kong, Tanzania, Eritrea, Kenya, Mauritania, Rwanda, Italy, and parts of Myanmar. (India, South Africa, and Uganda have banned them but do not yet enforce the ban everywhere.)
In the U.S., bans are active in American Samoa, Hawaii as of February 2014, and now California (see below), as well as parts of Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, and Washington state. [Wikipedia]
California, in September 2014, imposed the U.S.’s first lower-48 statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at grocery and convenience stores, to take effect in July 2015. However, the ban does not apply to bags used for produce or meats. [Huffington Post]
Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Puerto Rico have pending legislation that would ban single-use bags, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. [Huffington Post]
Ireland taxes plastic bags, reducing consumption by 90%.
[BBC News 8/20/02]
The amount of energy contained in the millions of tons of plastic in U.S. landfills, if it were all converted into liquid fuel, could power all the cars in LA for a year. In fact, new technologies can put all this waste plastic to good use, in waste-to-energy facilities.
[Earth Island Institute, Columbia University in NYC, 2012] See below!
Organizations concerned with reducing plastic waste
Plastic Pollution Coalition: LoveThisBagDryer! is now a member of this global alliance of individuals, organizations and businesses working together to stop plastic pollution and its toxic impacts on humans, animals and the environment. PPC seeks to put plastic pollution at the forefront of global social, environmental and political discourse.
Think Beyond Plastic: a project of Plastic Pollution Coalition. It includes an Innovation Forum to inspire disruptive innovation and advance entrepreneurship for solutions that measurably reduce plastic pollution, and a Business Accelerator focused on accelerating early-stage businesses with innovative solutions to plastic pollution. See this article for more!
Plastic Free Ocean: raises public awareness about the threats to wildlife, human health and the environment from the millions of tons of plastic waste that pollute the world’s oceans.
Algalita Marine Research Institute: dedicated to the protection and improvement of the marine environment and its watersheds through education and research on the impact of plastic pollution, and by collaborating with organizations working to reduce and ultimately eliminate plastic pollution. Founder Captain Charles J. Moore regularly documents what he finds during his sailboat trips through the world’s oceans, with articles such as this one in the NY Times and this TED talk.
The Ocean Cleanup: 19-year-old Dutch Boyan Slat has designed a way to use ocean currents to clean up the plastic gyres. His 6/3/14 feasibility study and this TEDx talk demonstrate it is feasible, and he is now heading toward building the first ocean platform to do so.
The Story of Stuff Project: LoveThisBagDryer! is now allied with this organization, which is building a movement for a cleaner, safer world to phase out our take-make-waste system that is trashing people and the planet. This Community currently has its sights set on microbeads: those tiny plastics in facial soaps that are designed to wash down the drain and into our rivers, lakes and oceans. Please join me in signing the Story of Stuff petition to ban microbeads. And if you really feel strongly about plastic pollution, you can sign up for Citizen Muscle Boot Camp: Plastics Edition. Here are links to join The Story of Stuff Project’s Facebook or Twitter conversation.
My Plastic Free Life: Beth Terry has been successfully reducing her own plastic footprint since 2007 and shares her knowledge, resources and strategies freely on her delightful website. In addition she writes books, speaks publicly, and engages in direct activism. Get to know her story through her TedX talk.
Examples of companies reducing plastic waste
PulpWorks which offers a compostable, all-pulp-and-paper alternative to plastic blister packaging. Laugh through the hilarious footage on their home page, of comedian Larry David struggling with a blister package. Get to know founder Paul Tasner and his company here and here.
Life Without Plastic sells alternatives to plastic-ware, with one of the most extensive sections on information about plastic I’ve ever seen, as well as ideas and resources for activists in this field. Jay’s and Chantal’s backgrounds in biochemistry, law, and business ethics serve us well as this Canadian company’s founders/owners. [Full disclosure: Wood Doing Good sells bag dryers through their on-line catalog.]