The damage caused by single-use plastics, in particular straws, bags, and bottles is no laughing matter. One would never know that listening to the news reports about a California legislator wants to pass a law stopping sit-down restaurants from offering customers straws unless specifically requested.

Comedians, pundits on every cable network, and “responsible” news-people had a heyday opining about the proposed law by Ian Calderon, the Democratic majority leader in California’s lower house. All of them, almost to the last one, appeared to be ignorant of the ecological disaster and menace single-use plastics have become. Not only was this too bad, it was a missed opportunity to educate and bring clarity to an important issue.

Mr. Calderon’s idea of addressing the issue of plastic straws is laudable. Unfortunately, thinking that passing a law, particularly this law, is wasted effort and doesn’t focus on the real problem. Straws aren’t the problem, it is the fact they are made of plastic! There are simple solutions that don’t require passing a law with possible jail time for an offense. Offering paper straws for one.

The statistics concerning the volume of plastic debris on land and in the oceans are so astronomical that most people cannot truly comprehend them. This is especially true when one considers that every piece of plastic made and not recycled still exists. That simple statement takes weeks to really sink in.

The agony caused by just one piece of plastic thrown into the sea is devastating.

This turtle writhes in pain as a drinking straw is pulled from its nose. Sadly, this is all too common. As the Social Director of  Sailors for the Seas  points out, “Straws may be small, but they are wreaking havoc on our oceans and proving to be deadly to marine life.”

We don’t need more laws, we need a change in our approach and attitudes towards plastics.  Here are the New Rules:

  1. Convenience is no longer a justification to ruin the environment.
  2. Manufacturers – If a company manufactures a product packaged with plastics, that company’s responsibility shouldn’t end with a purchase. If anything, companies should be more responsible than ever to find newer, better ways to reduce plastic in the packaging of products entering the supply chain.
  3. Consumers – It’s time for consumers to take responsibility and become part of the solution. Consider most plastic bags are used for less that 30 minutes and take hundreds of years to disappear. Do you really need a plastic bag for an item you can easily carry out of the store?
  4. Retailers – Stop offering plastic bags with little ‘rhyme or reason’ … train your baggers and checkers to ASK if a plastic bag is wanted or needed.
  5. Greenwashing – Offering reusable bags and sticking them in a corner where customers can’t see them is a form of greenwashing. It isn’t enough for retailers, convenience stores, and grocers to offer the reusable bags without a concerted effort to get consumers to use them.

 

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