Banning single use plastics – grasping at political straws or a realistic first step toward a healthier planet?June 18, 20192 min read
There’s no question about it – our planet has a problem with plastic. Though simple, cheap, convenient and often necessary, the reality is single use and non-reusable plastics like straws, plastic bags, wrapping and most containers are causing problems.
There’s no hiding or ignoring the evidence – plastic is everywhere from landfills, to our rivers and streams and even occupying its own land mass in the ocean.
Recently Canada proposed a ban on single use plastics to come in to effect in 2021. The country joined the likes of France, Germany, Italy, the U.K. and the European Union who are all implementing similar policies.
The United States, however – has not. Here are some facts from the Center for Biological Diversity.
- Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year, which require 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture.
- The average American family takes home almost 1,500 plastic shopping bags a year.
- According to Waste Management, only 1 percent of plastic bags are returned for recycling. That means that the average family only recycles 15 bags a year; the rest ends up in landfills as litter.
- Up to 80 percent of ocean plastic pollution enters the ocean from land.
- 100,000 marine animals are killed by plastic bags annually.
- One in three leatherback sea turtles have been found with plastic in their stomachs.
- Plastic bags are used for an average of 12 minutes.
- It takes 500 (or more) years for a plastic bag to degrade in a landfill. Unfortunately, the bags don't break down completely but instead photo-degrade, becoming microplastics that absorb toxins and continue to pollute the environment
There is no doubt plastic is a serious problem in America – but will the country join in?
- What will it take from an industry point of view?
- Will costs outweigh the benefit?
- Is this a matter of regulation and do Americans have the appetite to make this a political issue?
There are a lot of questions and that’s where our experts can help.
Dr. Beril Toktay is Professor of Operations Management, Brady Family Chairholder and ADVANCE Professor at Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business. She’s the founding Faculty Director of the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business. She’s an expert in the areas of sustainable operations and supply chain management, with a special focus on the circular economy. Beril is available to speak about this issue with media – simply click on her icon to arrange an interview.