Plastics Problems and Policy Solutions

Lisa Kaas Boyle, Esq.  JUNE  3, 2021

Resilient Palisades

Zero Waste Team Member

Stop plastic pollution

Volodymyr Hryshchenko | Unsplash

We have more plastic problems than ever since the pandemic began. Most of us have increased our plastic use as we order more takeout in plastic.  Furthermore, using the pandemic as an excuse, the plastic industry pushed for and obtained misguided rollbacks in plastic waste regulation, like a temporary suspension of the California plastic bag ban although reusable bags have not been shown to be a vector for the virus.  But the pandemic has spawned a great deal of thought and excellent presentations on the issues associated with plastics.  I’ve been attending many important recent webinars on plastics and want to share the links with you.  These webinars can be categorized as (1) Plastic and Health Problems, (2) Our Failed Waste System, and (3) National Policy Solutions.

 

1. The Health Problems:

 

Many of us know the basics about why plastic is a serious pollution problem. Plastic begins with fossil fuel extraction and processing in factories– all of this poisons our air water and soil.  Furthermore, plastic products become permanent waste.  Less than 9 percent has ever been “recycled” for reasons from cost to difficulty, and the rest ends up in landfill and in our environment – forever. But most people are not aware that we are consuming plastic through our food and drink. It is estimated that we consume a credit card’s worth of plastic a week. We also absorb plastic petrochemicals through our skin (mostly from beauty products). Even fetuses are exposed to the chemicals from plastics. We are getting sicker, fatter and poorer from our reliance on the chemicals in plastics, and our fertility is declining at a terrifying rate due to exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals. The experts on these subjects spoke in a webinar on World Health Day dedicated to reopening from the pandemic with less plastic.

 

Reopen with Reuse: A Media Briefing for World Health DayUPSTREAM and lead experts Dr. Shanna Swan and Dr. Leonardo Trasande explain how toxic chemicals in single-use food packaging are making us sicker, fatter, and poorer, even interfering with our ability to have children. We will also discuss the role of reusable foodware in saving businesses money and its relative safety both during the pandemic and in terms of the toxic chemicals threat.

 

Reopen with Reuse

2. The Waste Stream Problems:

 

We have been told since the 1970’s that all responsibility for waste lies with the consumer, not poor design by the manufacturers, and any problems are the result of careless people littering. The plastics industry came up with the chasing arrows and numbers for different types of plastic making us believe that if we put that plastic in the recycling bin, it would be born anew and not create waste, though this was never the true story about what happens with plastic waste. In fact, unlike paper or glass or metals that can easily be remade cost effectively into new products, experts call the myth around plastics rebirth “wishcycling.”  The plastic manufacturers had been able to get away with the ruse because we sent our waste to China, a kind of nationwide “Not in my Backyard” scandal. In China, some plastic was recycled into cheap products that would readily become waste again (plastic is not infinitely recyclable as the bonds of the polymer break down) and a lot was burned or entered the environment. Then China said: “No more!” This has caused a serious reevaluation in the waste industry and government about what to do about our plastic waste. This excellent presentation is from The Neighborhood Council Sustainability Alliance:

 

“What to Do About Waste?” Speakers: Jessica Aldridge—Athens Services Alessandro Negrete—East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice Eric Newton—Clements Environmental and Silver Lake Neighborhood Council Green Committee Robert Potter—LA Sanitation & Environment 

What to Do About Waste

3. National Policy Solutions:

 

So, what can we do to solve the pollution, waste stream and health problems associated with plastic manufacturing, use and disposal? Many solutions have been tried with great success around the globe and in states and municipalities in the U.S. Those tried and true solutions have been set forth in a national act. Though the act failed to get enough support under the Trump Administration, it is back in even more robust form with a chance for success under the Biden Administration and the current Congress. The authors of the U.S. Break Free from Plastic Act, Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Representative Alan Lowenthal of California, speak with moderator Judith Enck, former Obama Administration EPA Regional Administrator and founder of Beyond Plastics in this informative webinar:

 

Plastic Pollution Coalition and Break Free From Plastic’s webinar “Break Down: Explaining the U.S. Break Free from Plastic Act” 

Explaining the US Break Free from Plastic Act

To learn more and sign up for future webinars, follow:

 

www.PlasticPollutionCoalition.org

https://upstreamsolutions.org

https://www.breakfreefromplastic.org/

https://www.ncsa.la

 

 

Lisa Kaas Boyle, Esq. is an environmental attorney, former Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney, co-founder of Plastic Pollution Coalition, and member of Resilient Palisades, Skid Row Cooling Resources Committee and Skid Row’s No Place to Go Task Force.  www.LisaKaasBoyle.com

3 Comments

  • Sheda Morshed says:

    So informative, thanks Lisa!!

  • alicia says:

    Thank you Lisa for sharing this important information!! The more we know! Things will change when people get educated and there’s money in plastic alternatives that are eco friendly and disintegrate.

  • Karina Maher says:

    Thank you so much Lisa Boyle for bringing attention to this super important topic! And thank you Resilient Palisades for helping the residents of Pacific Palisades reduce their plastic use through your actions in support of the Cut Out Cutlery campaign (restaurants to give out plastic utensils w takeout only upon request) and organizing the RefilleryLA Truck to come to the Temescal Canyon mini farmers market on certain Thursdays so we may refill containers with eco-friendly home cleaning and personal care products.

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