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Is Now The Time For A War On Plastic?

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On Wednesday, the international consumer advocacy group Consumer Choice Center released a policy paper detailing the war on plastic, federal and state efforts at mitigating plastic waste, and potential legislative steps to better protect our environment.

In Deconstructing The War On Plastic the authors evaluate the issue of plastic waste in the United States including that of single-use plastics and alternatives and examine if legislative efforts to curb plastic waste will ultimately better serve the environment.

“In our report we highlight how local or state bans on plastic products often come with high negative environmental externalities,” said co-author Yaël Ossowski. “These bans ultimately push consumers to high-impact alternatives, and don’t necessarily reduce the total amount of plastic used by consumers. Rather than trying to ban their way out of this problem, we propose that state and local governments better collaborate to expand advanced recycling,” said Ossowski, also deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center.

“At the federal level, the combination of the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act and the CLEAN Future Act will make tackling plastic waste significantly more difficult. Both acts seek to put a moratorium on permits for advanced recycling facilities. This incredibly problematic because it hamstrings recycling efforts, which limits the nation’s ability to properly recycle plastic waste,” said co-author David Clement, North American Affairs Manager at CCC.

“Not only that, but the acts also seek to create a recycled content mandate for plastic products. Creating demand for recycled plastic, while at the same time limiting the capacity of plastic recycling facilities, is a recipe for disaster; specifically, one where demand for recycled plastic rapidly outpaces supply, which will drastically increase prices,” added Clement.

The authors propose a 4-step solution for the issue of plastic waste:

1) A ban on the export of plastic waste to countries that fail to meet environmental stewardship standards.

2) The expansion of advanced recycling and chemical depolymerization permits.

3) Embrace innovation and market solutions. There are a variety of new biodegradable plastics being brought to market, and those market solutions should be permitted to continue to develop.

4) Evaluate market mechanisms to price waste accordingly, so that externalities of mismanaged waste are not offloaded onto communities. We propose a full review of how the US can effectively price waste, in consultation with both consumers and producers.