California must lead on cutting down plastic waste

Orange County Register

By Anthony Rendon

At least we know the newspaper believes in some recycling.

Recently, editorial writers recycled a tired, old argument that environmental regulation is bad for business.

California proved that wasn’t true for emissions controls and renewable energy. We’re now economic leaders thanks in part to those regulations.

The newspaper now wants to use the same evidence-free argument against legislation to reduce and recycle plastic waste.

They got it all backwards.

If you read the editorial Saturday, you might believe consumer plastics were not a problem for our oceans.

If you read the Long Beach Press-Telegram for September 18, less than six months ago, you might have a different perspective.

On that date, the paper reported that a coastal cleanup in 2017 had turned up 1.7 million food wrappers, 1.6 million plastic bottles, 1 million plastic bottle caps and 750,000 plastic grocery bags.

That sounds like a problem, and it’s one that interferes with Californians’ enjoyment of their beaches up and down the coast.

Oddly, the editorialists cited the Ocean Cleanup Foundation when they argued that consumer plastic is not a problem.

Ocean Cleanup’s own researcher said, on their website, that as much as 99 million tons of municipal plastic waste was improperly disposed of in a single year, with a portion of that finding its way into the ocean.

The editorial suggests that legislation to reduce waste and increase recycling is the problem, not the answer.

Not true. Already, the state’s plastic bag ban has dramatically changed what ends up on our beaches. An analysis of coastal cleanups showed an 85 percent reduction in the percentage of collected waste attributed to plastic bags.

Unlike the newspaper, we know we must do something to reduce the vast quantities of plastic and other consumer waste we our dumping on our planet, whether it is plastic straws or Amazon packaging.

Friends of the LA River takes tons and tons of trash out of the river each year. Michael Atkins, FOLAR’s communications manager told us that, “Every little increment matters.”

Even the tiniest increment matters. A University of California Davis study found the remains of human generated trash in a quarter of the fish sold to consumers that they tested.

We can do something about it.

It doesn’t have to be expensive. Switching from plastic containers to more aluminum means easier recycling with fewer environmental costs.

Recycling is good, but our first goal should be reducing our plastic gluttony. That isn’t costly, either.

We are sure that the California businesses that voluntarily chose to provide straws only when requested have not seen their costs go up. They’re saving money, if anything.

Nevertheless, the newspaper calls it a war on the inexpensive and convenient.

Convenient does not always equal good. There was a time when Americans thought it was convenient to throw their cans, bottles, cigarettes and other trash out the window while driving down the road.

We’re smarter than that now.

We believe we’re also smart enough now to reduce the amount of waste we use while still living rich and productive lives.

Plastic waste is just that: waste. Any time you make something to use it once and throw it away, that’s a waste of resources, labor and money.

We made an economic victory out of cleaning the air and reducing our energy reliance on carbon fuels.

We can do it with plastics, too.

That’s what will lead to a cleaner ocean, and cleaner rivers, parks and neighborhoods.

Not editorial handwringing.

Access the full story here.