Letters to the Editor

Punt the plastic

April 3, 2010


To the editor:

Plastic does not break down. Paper bags will break down, but that is a lot of trees.

When going to the grocery store, stop using plastic bags for anything. I don’t use produce bags at the store any longer — directly to the cart. Take a box or two or total cloth sacks and a cooler with you. Yes, we do these things. If I forget my shopping gear, the groceries go on the seats then I head home and the food survives.

Some grocery chains no longer offer plastic sacks and instead encourage “bring your own.” When checking out simply ask the sacker to put your groceries back in the cart. Then you load groceries in the boxes and cooler(s) that are in your car. Or take the cooler in with you.

Bottled water is a huge problem. An article recently stated that water bottles used in a week would wrap around the planet five times. Most plastic water bottles are not recycled.

Most bottled water is no different than tap water. So why not buy an aluminum/stainless container or two and fill them up? A thermos bottle for coffee instead of Styrofoam cups. People say they are expensive. Forty dollars is far better than several hundred to a thousand dollars a year for plastic-bottled water. Yes, consumers unknowingly spend that much over a 12-month period.


Ron Holzwarth 7 years, 11 months ago

Well Liberty_One, since kiwis and apples are sold by weight, you do save a bit of money by not using a plastic bag at checkout.

It is almost certainly a tiny fraction of a cent, but I bet the scales round up to the next penny!

rtwngr 7 years, 11 months ago

I am surprised that Heckler, aka Merrill, didn't cut and paste his entire article and provide links "ad nauseum".

workinghard 7 years, 11 months ago

Sorry, can't get past the merrill gardening picture in my head.

mr_right_wing 7 years, 11 months ago

Because of your tone I will now double bag everything in plastic. I may also start buying cheap little bottles of water, taking one sip and throwing the rest out.

If you're trying to be the next Al Gore, you're off to a good start. (Extremely abrasive.)

Incidentally Richard, I'm also lazy and use a good number of plastic knives spoons and forks! Oh, and paper plates too....but that's better than styrofoam, right?

Flap Doodle 7 years, 11 months ago

I shall wear cheerful bright clothing while I double-bag. Don't forget that merrill once suggested that brown-outs were a good way to conserve electricity. How many days a week do you turn off all power to your home, bub?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 11 months ago

Look at it this way-- without Merrill, none of you would have the opportunity to prove that you have nothing useful to say.

workinghard 7 years, 11 months ago

But if you recycle the plastic water bottle it's ok, right? I also recycle my plastic (switched from wasteful paper) plates and glasses. I'm sorry but you would have to pry my paper towels from my cold, dead fingers.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 11 months ago

Without merrill, someone else would have to be the most often spanked poster on LJW.

mr_right_wing 7 years, 11 months ago

Using plastic bags saves trees! Save a tree...choose plastic!

LadyJ 7 years, 11 months ago

After they ask me if I want paper or plastic, I get to ask them if they want paper or plastic.

snitty 7 years, 11 months ago

The problem isn't plastic, it's the waste plastic in the environment. There needs to be constantly improving means to recycle all plastic easily so that it doesn't end up loose in the oceans, fields, or even landfills. You would think this was do-able, but too many people here would rather cavil about the notion of changing their habits than simply putting their trash where it will do no harm.

beatrice 7 years, 11 months ago

Rightwingers celebrating pollution and landfills overflowing with plastic. What hubris. No wonder we are a doomed species.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 11 months ago

""Some grocery chains no longer offer plastic sacks and instead encourage “bring your own.”' Which grocery chain no longer offers plastic sacks? " Natural food chain stores and some small natural food stores on the east coast. All stores are busier than ever it appears. One small store in Pennsylvania has customers bringing back paper sacks = are used at least twice.

"Do they do that out of some sense of altruism or just to save on the cost of doing business? " I 'd say both. The monster number of bags that stores must purchase is definitely figured into the price of goods. Why not do all we can to reduce the cost of doing business = Green dollar thinking.

Why not do all we can to reduce the negative impact oil has on our environment by way of reducing the number of plastic items in the market place? Good for our health = good for our wallets

Cloth bags are stronger than paper sacks generally. Coolers keep produce and other refrigerated or freezer items cold while running errands which eliminates the need to return home first before finishing necessary business = Good for the environment and the wallet.

Coolers are stronger than plastic or paper.

Not all plastic is truly recycled: http://www.stopcorporateabuse.org/spread-the-word

Richard Heckler 7 years, 11 months ago

Was informed on Saturday evening that in Italy some stores charge consumers 50 cents per plastic bag.

The source is Native Italian.

llama726 7 years, 11 months ago

"Because of your tone I will now double bag everything in plastic. I may also start buying cheap little bottles of water, taking one sip and throwing the rest out." -A right wing lunatic

Wow. What a reasonable solution.

LoveThsLife 7 years, 11 months ago

Some of the stuff this guy says is true- But... Be careful if you use re-usable sacks..those things can have some nasty germs living them..wash them regularly.

As for re-usable water bottles..Aluminum bottles have a liner in them..often that plastic liner contains BPA....so be careful what you purchase.

libraca 7 years, 11 months ago

WOW, all of you people saying that you are going to rebel by double bagging sound like a bunch of immature children. Why don't you worry about the facts and not the "tone" of the author. By not giving a crap about the environment, you are not only hurting every living creature on this planet but you are hurting all of your future descendants. I'm not perfect but at least I give a crap. Grow up.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 11 months ago

Plastics Task Force

Seven Misconceptions about Plastic and Plastic Recycling

*Misconception # 1: Plastics that go into a curbside recycling bin get recycled. Not necessarily. Collecting plastic containers at curbside fosters the belief that, like aluminum and glass, the recovered material is converted into new containers. In fact, none of the recovered plastic containers from Berkeley are being made into containers again but into new secondary products such as textiles, parking lot bumpers, or plastic lumber – all unrecyclable products. This does not reduce the use of virgin materials in plastic packaging. "Recycled" in this case merely means "collected," not reprocessed or converted into useful products.

*Misconception # 2: Curbside collection will reduce the amount of plastic landfilled. Not necessarily. If establishing collection makes plastic packages seem more environmentally friendly, people may feel comfortable buying more. Curbside plastic collection programs, intended to reduce municipal plastic waste, might backfire if total use rises faster than collection. Since only a fraction of certain types of plastic could realistically be captured by a curbside program, the net impact of initiating curbside collection could be an increase in the amount of plastic landfilled. The Berkeley pilot program showed no reduction of plastic being sent to the landfill in the areas where the curbside collection was in operation. Furthermore, since most plastic reprocessing leads to secondary products that are not themselves recycled, this material is only temporarily diverted from landfills.

*Misconception # 3: A chasing arrows symbol means a plastic container is recyclable. The arrows are meaningless. Every plastic container is marked with the chasing arrows symbol. The only information in the symbol is the number inside the arrows, which indicates the general class of resin used to make the container. The attorneys general of 11 states objected to false and misleading claims about plastic recyclability. The recent settlement that they reached with the American Plastics Council paves the way for a first-ever definition of what claims can or cannot be made about plastic recycling and recyclability.

*Misconception # 4: Packaging resins are made from petroleum refineries’ waste. Plastic resins are made from non-renewable natural resources that could be used for a variety of other applications or conserved. Most packaging plastics are made from the same natural gas used in homes to heat water and cook.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 11 months ago

*Misconception # 5: Plastics recyclers pay to promote plastics’ recyclability. No; virgin resin producers pay for the bulk of these ads. Most such ads are placed by virgin plastic manufacturers whose goal is to promote plastic sales. These advertisements are aimed at removing or diminishing virgin plastic’s greatest challenge to market expansion: negative public conception of plastic as unrecyclable, environmentally harmful, and a major component of wastes that must be landfilled or burned.

*Misconception # 6: Using plastic containers conserves energy. When the equation includes the energy used to synthesize the plastic resin, making plastic containers uses as much energy as making glass containers from virgin materials, and much more than making glass containers from recycled materials. Using refillables is the most energy conservative.

*Misconception # 7: Our choice is limited to recycling or wasting. Source reduction is preferable for many types of plastic and isn’t difficult. Opportunities include using refillable containers, buying in bulk, buying things that don’t need much packaging, and buying things in recyclable and recycled packages

*Plastic packaging has economic, health, and environmental costs and benefits. While offering advantages such as flexibility and light weight, it creates problems including: consumption of fossil resources; pollution; high energy use in manufacturing; accumulation of wasted plastic in the environment; and migration of polymers and additives into foods.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 11 months ago

"Sometimes, even banana peels don't decompose once they reach the landfill. For sanitary reasons, modern landfills are lined on the bottom with clay and plastic to keep waste from escaping into the soil and are covered daily with a layer of earth to reduce odor.

The landfill, then, acts like a trash tomb—the garbage within receives little air, water, or sunlight. This means that even readily degradable waste objects, including paper and food scraps, are more likely to mummify than decompose."

Neither corn bags nor bags made from oil are likely to break down.

"'Biodegradable' plastic bags may not be as eco-friendly as thought"

Biodegradable'' plastic bags used by major supermarkets do not break down as quickly as believed and may not be as environmentally-friendly as they sound, according to Government-funded research.

Published: 1:00PM GMT 11 Mar 2010

A study into ''oxo-degradable'' plastics, often labelled as degradable or biodegradable, found there was uncertainty about their impact on the natural environment.

The carrier bags, bin bags and flexible packaging, made from common plastics with small amounts of chemicals to speed up their breakdown, are also not suitable for recycling with other plastics, reuse or composting, the research by Loughborough University found.

In the wake of the study funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, ministers called on the industry not to claim the plastics were better for the environment than more conventional ones.

And the Co-operative said it would not be using carrier bags made from that type of plastic in its stores in future.

Oxo-degradable plastics contain additives to help them degrade into smaller pieces more quickly with the help of heat or light.

They then have to biodegrade, a process caused by microbes.

The report said adding the metal compounds to the plastics did not improve their environmental performance and ''potentially gives rise to certain negative effects''.

Researchers said it was hard to estimate how long the plastics would take to degrade, though somewhere between two and five years has been suggested if they are left out in the open UK environment.

But they do not degrade in the absence of oxygen so are unlikely to break down in a landfill, where much of the plastic would end up. "

Richard Heckler 7 years, 11 months ago

"Plastic container producers do not use any recycled plastic in their packaging. Recycled content laws could reduce the use of virgin resin for packaging. Unfortunately, the virgin&endash;plastics industry has resisted such cooperation by strongly opposing recycled -content legislation, and has defeated or weakened consumer efforts to institute stronger laws.

Plastic manufacturers recently decided that they will not add post consumer materials to their resins used in the USA.

There is a likelihood that establishing plastics collection might increase consumption by making plastic appear more ecologically friendly both to consumers and retailers. Collecting plastics at curbside could legitimize the production and marketing of packaging made from virgin plastic.

Studies of garbage truck loads during the recent plastic pick-up pilot program showed no reduction of "recyclable" plastic containers being thrown away in the pilot areas (in fact, there was a slight increase). Due in part to increased plastic use, glass container plants around the country have been closing, including Anchor Glass Container Corporation in Antioch, putting 300 people out of work

Plastic recycling costs much and does little to achieve recycling goals. Our cost/benefit analysis for implementing curbside plastics collection in Berkeley shows that curbside collection of discarded plastics: involves expensive processing; has limited benefits in reducing environmental impacts; and has limited benefits in diverting resources from waste.

Processing used plastics often costs more than virgin plastic. As plastic producers increase production and reduce prices on virgin plastics, the markets for used plastic are diminishing. PET recyclers cannot compete with the virgin resin flooding the market.

Increasing the capture rates of glass, paper or yard debris in Berkeley could divert more resources from landfills than collecting plastics at curbside. The "recyclable" plastic to be collected in Berkeley at most would only amount to 0.3% of the waste stream. "

Maddy Griffin 7 years, 11 months ago

Without Merril and his cut and paste, we might have to do our own homework. I enjoy your comments Merrill. I find them very informative.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 11 months ago

You're forgetting that attribution thing again, merrill. Or are you claiming to have written the article at: http://www.ecologycenter.org/ptf/misconceptions.html ? Plagiarism makes the Baby Al Gore cry. So does an internal combustion lawn mower.

svenway_park 7 years, 11 months ago

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