This is one of the best slide presentations on plastics and the impact they have on our environment you are likely to see. Intelligent and well thought out AND put together by two “green teens” with Plastics Are Forever Youth summit.
The Los Angeles City Council recently gave approval to an ordinance that will ban single use plastic bags. The ban will be effect beginning in January of 2014 for large retailers. Smaller businesses will be expected to comply beginning in June of 2014.
The bag ban makes Los Angeles the largest city in the country to ban the ubiquitous plastic bag. This is great news for activists worldwide. In addition to saving the environment the ban is projected to save Los Angeles $2 million a year in clean up costs of plastic litter.
In an effort to help low-income families, Los Angeles is planning to give out 1 million reusable bags in low-income areas.
San Francisco, Laguna Beach, and Santa Monica already have plastic bag bans in place.
Mark Murray, Executive Director of Californians Against Waste, said in a statement, “By 2014, more than one-third of Californians — 13 million people — will live in communities that no longer have to deal with the scourge and cost of single use plastic grocery bags,”
An international group of scientists think it is time to consider categorizing some plastic waste as toxic according to a recent LA Times article. Considering the damage to the environment and the health hazards posed by plastic debris and plastic pollution, many believe this is about time.
The throwaway mentality of all things plastic including single-use plastic bags and bottles has burgeoned into an ecological disaster of monstrous proportions in the last 30 years. The tide of plastic debris that has spread throughout the world’s oceans and across every continent poses health hazards to wildlife, marine life and the world’s populace.
It isn’t just the plague of plastic choking the seas as far as the Artic, or the enormous costs of cleaning up our coastlines reaching $500 million annually on the west coast alone. It is having to deal with the unintended consequences of mindlessly tossing vast quantities into the environment without recycling.
Scientists, researchers and marine biologists have found:
- Mutant fish with toxins stored in their fats thought to be caused by two General Electric manufacturing plants along the Hudson River that produced PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) from 1947 to 1976.
- One third of the fish caught in the English Channel have plastic contamination.Researchers estimate that fish living at intermediate depths in the North Pacific swallow as much as 24,000 tons of plastic debris a year.
- Science Daily found BPA, or Bisphenol A,(used as a hardener in polycarbonate plastics and as the lining in food and beverage containers) has been linked to childhood obesity, along with adverse effects on the heart and kidneys of adolescents.
- The National Academy of Sciences just published a study conducted by Washington State University and recently reported on Fox News . The study found compelling evidence that Bisphenol A may negatively impact women’s reproductive systems, cause chromosome damage, birth defects and miscarriages.
Plastics do not biodegrade; they photodegrade, breaking down into smaller particles and microscopic bits in the oceans. These plastic bits and their chemical compounds find their way into the food chain as they are ingested by over 180 known marine species.
Degrading plastics leach toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A into the seas. Smaller fish and crustaceans mistake the plastic debris for food are then eaten by larger and larger species. Estimates are there are six times as much photodegraded plastic is in the oceans than is plankton!
Scientists are now calling for a similar approach to fighting plastic debris and pollution as has been used in the past to fight fluorocarbons and refrigerants worldwide. In particular, they want to classify PVC, polystyrene, polyurethane and polycarbonate as the most hazardous/toxic plastics.
The U.S. could take lessons from many countries when it comes to managing plastic trash, especially Japan where 77% of its plastic waste was recycled in 2010.
It should also be noted that Canada, the European Union, and China have banned BPA in some uses. The World Health Organization calls Bisphenol A a particularly dangerous chemical also linking it to cancer and birth defects.
A complete report on the damage done to the environment, entitled Plastic Debris in the World’s Oceans, has been put together by Greenpeace. The 44 page report details the scale of contamination along with workable solutions.
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Cities across the country are resorting to bans as a way to reduce the impact and harmful effects of single-use plastic bag. Los Angeles joins San Francisco, Toronto, Westport, Connecticut and the State of Hawaii, all with single-use bans in place.
In May 2012, Los Angeles became the largest city in the nation to approve the banning of single-use plastic bags at supermarket checkout lines. The ban will be phased in over the next 16 months. Shoppers will need to bring reusable bags or purchase paper bags for 10 cents each.
Cities that have instituted these bans have seen a dramatic decrease in the damage single-use plastic bags cause our environment. How do you feel?
There are more and more reasons to Say No to Plastics. Most single-use plastic bags are used an average of 12 minutes by U.S. consumers, yet their real life span, unless recycled, is many hundreds of years. The plastic trash building up in our oceans is a ticking time bomb.
The statistics below are from a recent Huff Post Green article which asks, “Did you just eat a plastic bag?” For a more complete look view it here.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency reports the following data on plastic products in the American municipal waste stream for 2008 alone:
1. Plastic Plates and Cups: 780,000 tons were produced, and all 780,000 tons were discarded.
2. Plastic Trash Bags: 930,000 tons were produced, and all 930,000 were discarded.
3. Plastic Bags, Sacks and Wraps: 3,960,000 tons were produced. 9.8% was recovered (390,000). 3,570,000 tons were discarded.
4. “Other” non-durable goods including plastic disposable diapers, footwear and clothing: amounted to 4,810,000 tons produced with all 4,810,000 tons discarded.
5. PET Bottles and Jars: 2,680,000 tons were produced, 27.2 % were recovered (730,000 tons) and 1,950,000 tons were discarded.
6. HDPE (white translucent homopolymer bottles): 750,000 tons were produced, and 29.3 % (220,000 tons) were recovered. 530,000 tons were discarded.
7. “Other Plastic Packaging” including coatings, closures, lids, caps, clam shells, egg cartons, produce baskets, trays, shapes, and loose fill: 3,720,000 tons were produced. 3% (110,000 tons) were recovered, and 3 Million 610 Thousand Tons were discarded.
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