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Author Topic: Why plastic isn't killing the earf  (Read 84 times)
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« on: February 24, 2020, 10:56:35 AM »

A long, but excellent breakdown on the many reasons why the panic from leftists boobs over plastic straws is silly:

"The Perverse Panic over Plastic

Like the recycling movement, the plastic panic has been sustained by popular misconceptions. Environmentalists and their champions in the media have ignored, skewed, and fabricated facts to create several pervasive myths.

Your plastic straws and grocery bags are polluting the planet and killing marine animals. The growing amount of plastic debris in the seas is a genuine problem, but it’s not caused by our “throwaway society.” Environmental groups cite a statistic that 80 percent of the plastic debris in the oceans comes from land-based sources, but good evidence has never supported that estimate, and recent research paints a different picture.

After painstakingly analyzing debris in the north central Pacific Ocean, where converging currents create the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” a team of scientists from four continents reported in 2018 that more than half the plastic came from fishing boats—mostly discarded nets and other gear. These discards are also the greatest threat to marine animals, who die not from plastic bags but from getting entangled in the nets. Another study, published last year by Canadian and South African researchers, traced the origins of plastic bottles that had washed up on the shore of the aptly named Inaccessible Island, an uninhabited landmass in the middle of the southern Atlantic Ocean. More than 80 percent of the bottles came from China and must have been tossed off boats from Asia traversing the Atlantic.

Some plastic discarded on land does end up in the ocean, but very little of it comes from consumers in the United States or Europe. Most of the labels on the plastic packaging analyzed in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch came from Asia, the greatest source of what researchers call “mismanaged waste.” Of the plastic carried into oceans by rivers, a 2017 study in Nature Communications estimated, 86 percent comes from Asia and virtually all the rest from Africa and South America. Developing countries don’t yet have good systems for collecting and processing waste, so some of it is simply dumped into or near rivers, and these countries’ primitive processing facilities let plastic leak into waterways.

It’s true that some plastic in America is littered on beaches and streets, and some of it winds up in sewer drains. But researchers have found that laws restricting plastic bags (which account for less than 2 percent of litter) and food containers do not reduce litter (a majority of which consists of cigarette butts and paper products). The resources wasted on these anti-plastic campaigns would be better spent on more programs to discourage littering and to pick up everything that’s discarded—a direct approach that has proved effective.

When you recycle plastic, you prevent it from polluting the oceans. This myth is based on the enduring delusion that plastic from curbside bins can be efficiently turned into other products. But sorting the stuff is so onerous and labor-intensive—and the resulting materials of so little value—that recycling plastic is hopelessly unprofitable in the United States and Europe. Municipalities expected to make money selling their plastic waste to local recyclers, but instead they’ve had to pay to get rid of it, mostly by shipping it to Asian countries with low labor costs. The chief destination for many years was China; but two years ago, China banned most imports, so the plastic waste has been diverted to countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

That means that some of the plastic from your recycling bin has probably ended up in the ocean because it has gone to a country with a high rate of “mismanaged waste.” At the rudimentary recycling plants in Asia, some of the plastic waste leaks out into the environment, and much of the imported waste doesn’t even reach a legitimate recycling plant. Journalists and environmentalists have been collecting horror stories in Malaysia and Indonesia of Western plastics piling up at illegal dumps and spewing toxins when they’re burned in backyard kitchens. The people living near the dumps and recycling operations complain that foreign plastics are fouling their air and polluting their rivers.

The good news is that these countries are starting to share China’s reluctance to accept the stuff from our recycling bins. Waste managers in America and Europe lament that their warehouses are overflowing with bales of plastic recyclables that nobody will take off their hands, and they’ve been forced to send the bales to local landfills and incinerators. It would have been smarter to do that in the first place instead of running a costly recycling program, but at least they’re preventing that plastic from polluting the ocean. You can do your own bit for marine animals—and your town’s budget—by throwing your plastic straight into the trash.

Single-use plastic bags are the worst environmental choice at the supermarket. Wrong: they’re the best choice. These high-density polyethylene bags are a marvel of economic, engineering, and environmental efficiency: cheap and convenient, waterproof, strong enough to hold groceries but so thin and light that they require scant energy, water, or other natural resources to manufacture and transport. Though they’re called single-use, surveys show that most people reuse them, typically as trash-can liners.

Once discarded, these bags take up little room in the landfill, and the fact that they’re not biodegradable is a plus, not a minus, because they don’t release methane or any other greenhouse gas, as decomposing paper and cotton bags do. The bags’ tiny quantity of carbon, extracted from natural gas, goes back underground, where it can be safely sequestered from the atmosphere (and the ocean) in a modern landfill with a sturdy lining.

Every other grocery bag has a bigger environmental impact, as repeatedly demonstrated by environmental life-cycle analyses of the bags and by surveys of consumer behavior. Paper bags and reusable tote bags require more water to manufacture and more energy to produce and transport, which means a bigger carbon footprint. To compensate for that bigger initial footprint of a paper bag, according to the United Kingdom’s environmental agency, you’d have to reuse it at least four times, which virtually no one does. The typical paper grocery bag is used just once (and takes up 12 times more landfill space than a plastic one).

People do reuse tote bags, but not as often as they plan to. One survey found that consumers forget to bring the bags to the supermarket nearly half the time. To offset the initial carbon footprint of a cotton tote bag, you’d have to use it 173 times, but the typical tote is used just 15 times, so the net effect is about nine times more carbon emissions than a thin plastic bag."

Entire, excellent, piece here:


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