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Mumbai bans plastic bags, bottles, and single-use plastic containers (theguardian.com)
812 points by hw on June 26, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 354 comments



Instead, government could've imposed ban on the consumer products which are wrapped using plastic material. Almost 50% plastic come directly from such consumer products sold by all FMCG companies. Such plastic material which is used as a wrapper (e.g. mineral bottles, wrappers of chocolates, biscuits, wafers, tobacco, etc.) is often useless and people tend to throw it right away.

I agree that "we", the people need to take a pledge to stop using plastic as much as we can. But if there's no restriction put on giant FMCG companies such as Hindustan Unilever, ITC, Patanjali, Netsle, Procter and Gamble, etc. from supplying their products wrapped in plastic, I consider all of these government initiatives merely as a gimmick.

EDIT 1: Another comment I left on this thread - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17400028.

EDIT 2: In India, plastic is a major contributor of blocking sewers and rivers, especially in rainy seasons. Another important problem plastic waste produces is that since government bodies (such as, municipal corporations, gram panchayats, etc.) are unable to dump and/or recycle plastic waste properly, it is accidentally consumed by animals and is the major reason for their deaths. Another issue is that, often "dumping waste" is considered as "burning" it. Burning plastic waste disturbs healthy air and is a major factor among others responsible for the increased air pollution in Indian cities recently.


>Instead, government could've imposed ban on the consumer products which are wrapped using plastic material. Almost 50% plastic come directly from such consumer products sold by all FMCG companies. Such plastic material which is used as a wrapper (e.g. mineral bottles, wrappers of chocolates, biscuits, wafers, tobacco, etc.) is often useless and people tend to throw it right away.

Broadly speaking, that would be a terrible backwards step for the environment. Plastic packaging often reduces waste by protecting the product from spoilage and damage.

A lot of people bemoan the plastic wrapping on cucumbers, but that wrapping doubles the shelf life of the product. It's a net win, because the environmental impact of wasted cucumbers is far greater than the environmental impact of a gram or two of polyethylene wrapping.

Many people argue that milk should be sold in re-usable glass containers rather than disposable bottles or cartons, but the environmental case is really marginal. The glass bottle is considerably more energy-intensive to produce and transport, with more energy used to collect and wash it for re-use. Returnable glass bottles are often worse than disposable plastic if the transport distance is too great and/or the breakage rate is too high. In many cases, the best option is reusable plastic bottles, which are less energy-intensive to manufacture, lighter to transport and more durable than glass.

Plastic is a wonderful material that has an important role to play in a sustainable economy. There has been a huge increase in the quality and availability of bio-based and biodegradable plastics in the packaging industry. We have irrationally demonised a very useful material, creating a huge distraction from much more serious environmental problems.

If you buy a beef steak wrapped in plastic, the problem is the steak, not the wrapper. The plastic wrapper produced ~10g of CO2 and required ~100ml of water to produce; the steak produced ~7kg of CO2 and required ~4,000 litres of water to produce. As long as it is disposed of responsibly, a whole trash bag full of plastic packaging has a negligible environmental impact compared to a single portion of beef.


While CO₂ emission is important, this is not primary reason for banning plastic bags. It's plastic in various states of (un)decomposition all over the ecosystem.

A cucumber is 100% biodegradable with no solid residue. The plastic that wraps it will take a long time to decompose and is likely to be found clogging up some piece of nature—whether in the soil, affecting plants or obstructing some body function of an animal.


Plastic packaging doesn't spontaneously release itself into the ecosystem, it's put there by someone irresponsibly managing waste. Norway and the Netherlands are both trialling waste-to-energy incineration with carbon capture. Failing that, there's nothing particularly wrong with well-managed landfill.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S187661021...

http://www.vivis.de/phocadownload/Download/2017_eaa/2017_EaA...


You're confusing waste that is properly disposed of with waste that is not. The problem is waste that is improperly disposed of and neither of those are solutions to that problem.


I don't think jdietrich is confusing anything; they explicitly said:

> Plastic packaging doesn't spontaneously release itself into the ecosystem, it's put there by someone irresponsibly managing waste.

They are (correctly, IMO) pointing out that this is a classic case of missing the root cause; it's a commonly held position that plastic containers are inherently bad for the environment, and that position leads to laws like the one in the OP.

My read of jdietrich's posts was that a more nuanced approach would be more optimal; the problem is not plastic containers per se, it's poor disposal.

Keep in mind that India has less well developed infrastructure than Norway and the Netherlands, and so it's much harder to dispose of waste properly. More investment in this sort of service might be a better long-run strategy in terms of national cost/benefit. (Or it might not, depending on how much it would cost to improve the infrastructure; but the discussion about whether it's a good idea should make an analysis on that point.)


Yes, it doesn’t spontaneously release itself. The solutions he then linked to don’t address the core issue.

We know how to properly dispose of plastic.


That's correct. Indians litter. It's a cultural thing, I guess. Filthiest place on earth. (Don't downvoted me unless you have been to India.) It's sad that the solution is to ban plastic bags and the like... I'm not against the solution. But, the problem is Indians who think nothing of tossing trash out into the street and would be genuinely confused if you suggested they clean up after themselves.


I’ve been to India many times, and it’s true most people there litter without much thought. Once while ‘adapting myself to the culture’ I threw a plastic water bottle away on a street corner that was already heavy with garbage; and just then an elderly Indian man chastised me for littering!


I’m not sure I buy the “it’s cultural” argument. I’ve been to India and to plenty of other places, and there is a littering problem everywhere. It seems to be worse wherever there are lots of people and mediocre rule of law. I don’t think any one culture instinctively litters more than any other.


I hypothesize it's a poverty thing. When you're poor, why would you care about plastic waste. You're worried about your next meal.


TIL littering is a common thing in multiple countries (not sarcastic)


I'm from India.

## Problem 1: The problem is not culture, but of poor govt. I as a responsible person want to throw this wrapper, there is no dustbin you'll find for kilometers on end sometimes.

Do you expect me to carry the wrapper back to my home or carry a small dustbin along with me every time?

## Problem 2: You would've noticed, most Indian homes are pretty clean (within reason and corresponding to income level). This is because we care for our private property. Govt is a body which owns public property and doesn't take care of roads and streets (which are public property). This will refute your claim that this is an issue of culture (because we keep our private property, houses, hotels, malls, etc clean).

## Solution (proposed): This is going to be against mainstream and HN views.

1) Privatize roads and streets (takes care of problem 2)

2) Privatize waste collection (takes care of problem 1)

But we won't do it anytime soon, because reasons (we'll I know the reasons, but just don't want to type them down here).


>Do you expect me to carry the wrapper back to my home or carry a small dustbin along with me every time?

Yes. I don't know you and my comment isn't directed to you. But this is what I meant by 'confused' in my post... It seems many from that culture genuinely think it is absurd to clean up after oneself. The distinction between public and private property has no bearing on how a westerner feels about littering. Indeed, a westerner would be LESS inclined to litter on public property than on his own.

In the West, when one drops a piece of paper or bottle, the thought is (or should be) that you are making life harder for someone else who will eventually have to pick it up.

It's the reason you can rely on Westerners, generally, to clean their own tables and toss out their own trash at fast food restaurants. (Or at least briefly feel guilty about it if they don't). It's the reason you can rely on Westerners to return their grocery carts to the collection points. It's empathy... we don't want to make life harder for the poor worker. I do not believe this feeling of empathy is pervasive in Indian cultures... maybe just a left-over from the caste system...


I am Indian and this comment is painful but I agree with a lot of it. Some have actually challenged me "why not litter, I pay taxes for that".

Indian society is very hierarchical and shitting on the rung below you is very ingrained in us. What makes matters worse is that people are so unaccustomed to considerate treatment from the rung above that this is almost an alien concept to them. Hence it does not occur to them as often as it should to be considerate to others.

Just the other day I witnessed an argument. A lady passerby was very annoyed. The construction worker who was doing some welding work on an overhanging grill did not stop to let the lady pass without sparks landing on her. The construction worker's reaction was essentially 'WTF are you talking about'. The fact is that the construction worker probably would have never have experienced a situation where someone stopped work momentarily for his convenience. Its an alien notion. On the other side no one in the lady's social circle would have been a construction worker even if we include multiple generations.


> Do you expect me to carry the wrapper back to my home or carry a small dustbin along with me every time?

FYI: in many urban areas in the USA, the expectation is that you carry a "poop bag" and pickup all the poop your dog makes whenever you walk your dog.

This isn't true across the entire USA. Its definitely a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis. But still, these are the things a lot of liberal cities expect their citizens to do (and things that citizens actually do, because there are enough people who care)

In fact, there are poop-bag dispensers found at parks. There is literally an industry which makes dog-poop bags: http://www.poopbags.us

Here's a picture of what they normally look like: https://imgur.com/13cAJTg


> Do you expect me to carry the wrapper back to my home or carry a small dustbin along with me every time?

Yes...That's what I would do, and I don't even remotely consider myself an 'environmentally-conscious' person whatsoever.


> Do you expect me to carry the wrapper back to my home

That's what I do.

BTW its not that the govt does not put bins, they keep getting stolen. One could argue that the govt could guard them better. I doubt that it would be cost effective.

Someone who is stealing garbage bins probably has a pretty desperate incentive, or these thefts are a part of systemic corruption. Its actually both. Making incentives weaker would go a long way towards a longer term solution.

Its likely that it suits the government fine that the bins get stolen, the contract was given to the private company owned by minister's brother in law. Now they are both happy that they have more bins to order. BTW that brother in law is the one who arranged for those to get stolen in the first place.

Please elaborate why privatization will fix the problem. Not disbelieving, want to understand the solution you propose.


3) Tax plastic and use those taxes to pay for bins and removal. This has the dual effect of incentivizing the use of less plastic and paying for clean up.


I really wish taxation was more p2p. In India this process will stop at tax collection. The collected tax will not end up where it was meant to.


Certain kinds of waste are more likely to end up being improperly disposed of. When was the last time you saw a cucumber wrapper or steak package blowing in the wind? I bet you see a lot more coffee cups and plastic bottles.

When people unwrap groceries, they do so in their home, and it tends to get disposed of properly. It's stuff people use on the go that most frequently becomes litter.


> tends to get disposed of properly

What exactly is the 'proper' disposal of plastic? Burying it? Burning it for energy? Recycling a tiny fraction of it and burying/burning the rest?


It depends on the specifics, but I think you covered the main options. Any of them would prevent the harm to wildlife caused by litter.


Burning plastics and burying them causes harm to wildlife, if not immediate then in the long term.


Based on jdietrich's input, it is then a waste processing problem and not a plastic problem. Tackling the symptom in this case seems net more harmful.


By his logic, we should plastic wrap every vegetable and fruit. That is nonsensical.

Humans don't dispose of things properly. That's a fact. Creating more plastic waste will create more plastic pollution.

It's far easier to not create the waste in the first place. And there are ways to reduce CO2 that don't involve creating exponentially more plastic waste.

Again, producers don't plastic wrap cucumbers to save CO2. The entire premise is ridiculous.

Charge producers for the waste their products create. That will incentivize less waste. Charge them for the CO2 they emit. That will incentivize a reduction in CO2. You can accomplish both with market signals.


>By his logic, we should plastic wrap every vegetable and fruit. That is nonsensical.

Not at all. Cucumbers have a relatively short shelf-life due to a high water content and a permeable skin, so wrapping them makes economic and environmental sense. Apples and citrus fruits don't need plastic packaging, but their shelf life is considerably enhanced by the application of a protective wax coating. Some products like loose salad leaves need modified atmosphere packaging to achieve a satisfactory shelf life, while delicate soft fruits require a protective packaging system that could involve a variety of wood- or plastic-based products. I'm indifferent to points of principle, I care about choosing the most sustainable tool for any given task.

The critical environmental issue in our fruit and vegetable supply is the needlessly high use of air freight to maintain supplies of out-of-season produce. A single package of asparagus or green beans might produce emissions of >10kg CO2e, simply because of their transport mode. If you want to reduce the sustainability of your produce consumption, that one issue overwhelms pretty much everything else.

>It's far easier to not create the waste in the first place. And there are ways to reduce CO2 that don't involve creating exponentially more plastic waste.

You're trading one kind of waste for another. Plastic packaging is wasteful in one sense because it is disposable, but it reduces a potentially far greater waste by protecting products during transportation and storage. Plastic isn't always the most sustainable packaging material, but it often is. That decision needs to be made based on hard facts, not the presumption that plastic is evil.

>Charge producers for the waste their products create. That will incentivize less waste. Charge them for the CO2 they emit. That will incentivize a reduction in CO2.

I'm fully in favour of both, as long as those charges represent the actual economic impacts of mitigating those issues.


The problem with your reasoning is that it's based on your cultural and community experience and not that of the typical Indian. You're considering the impact of that law on your lifestyle and assuming it will impact all others in the same way.

How many people in India are buying their vegetables in plastic wrap from the big box grocery store?

According to unicef, 50% of the population in India defecate in the open. It wasn't until 2014 that a municipal in Delhi passed a law penalizing people for public littering and defecation. There are no national laws.

It will require a cultural revolution to combat littering in India. In the mean time banning the most harmful forms of litter will help to combat the growing problem.


I'm an Indian and your statements are ignorant and myopic. Let me explain.

Littering is in every country not just India. Certain countries deal with it in a better way.

Banning something doesn't evaporate it's demand. Like, people litter because there are not dustbins (at least not often enough) on the street in India.

Open defecation is unrelated to this issue. Main reason open defecation happens is because there is no continuous supply of water (by the Govt) or proper sewage system (responsibility of the govt).

We need to stop blaming ourselves and think what is the root cause of the problem - Government.

PS: I've thought my stance through about this, please think through this and see whether or not Govt is to blame for this. Govt is not you and I. All govts these days are Govts of the people by the bureaucracy for the bureaucracy.


> Littering is in every country not just India. Certain countries deal with it in a better way.

Most deal with it by passing laws a municipal levels of government making it illegal in conjunction with providing refuse bins. Only one municipality in India has done this.

> Open defecation is unrelated to this issue.

It's actually very much related, you state that people litter due to lack of refuse bins and openly defecate because of the lack of toilets. The reason I mention it is that while India does not have national laws around littering, they do have them for open defecation. Since the Swachh Bharat mission was launched in 2014 there have been significant reductions in the % of the population that openly defecate yet even in homes with access to toilets they aren't seeing 100% usage. In homes with government provided toilets they've seen upwards of 40% of people still choosing to openly defecate and of those a large percentage say they prefer the openness of defecating outdoors. It is most definitely a behavioral and cultural issue.

Littering out of convenience is cultural/behavioral and not due to any failing of the government. If it were purely down to a lack of refuse receptacles then how do you explain the state of most venues after an event? I've never been to a movie theater, music venue, or athletics stadium that did not have copious refuse bins to collect trash and yet people still litter. To further drive home the fact that is indeed culture look no further than the Japanese who have cleanliness so culturally ingrained that they stick around after World Cup matches to help clean the stadium.


It's still a false dilemma, we are not limited to plastic coatings for Cucumbers.


At least some cultures are amenable to training not to litter everywhere. In the US there was a big campaign in the 1970's and 80's to reduce litter on roadsides and other places. $1000 fines and a general positive attitude to group action has reduced litter in most places in the US that a yearly or less pickup schedule can keep even urban highways pretty clean. Monthly street sweeping elsewhere does the job. I don't see (much) plastic litter in the landscape in the US. In other countries, maybe other methods are needed.


> Humans don't dispose of things properly. That's a fact. Creating more plastic waste will create more plastic pollution.

Are you implying we should create less humans in a first place?

> It's far easier to not create the waste in the first place. And there are ways to reduce CO2 that don't involve creating exponentially more plastic waste.

If it is easy, then why aren't you a billionaire already?

More seriously, the solution is probably a combination of awareness about over consumption (reducing the production of waste), and investments into better waste management for the concerned countries.


This is a really great point that deserves to be it's own comment, rather than a reply to another. The two greatest challenges facing us in the next few years are climate change and water usage. Plastic is an issue, but it's not a life-or-death-for-the-species problem. We can figure plastic out later. We already are discovering bacteria and other organisms that can digest plastics.

It seems to me we have a kind of liberal guilt when it comes to plastic production. As if we're defiling this green and pleasant land with something alien to the universe. We're almost certainly not producing anything that hasn't already existed. We should stop acting like we are. (The same goes for nuclear waste.) As long as plastics are disposed responsibly in ways that don't damage plants and animals, what's the issue?


> As long as plastics are disposed responsibly in ways that don't damage plants and animals, what's the issue?

Please don't discount one of the biggest issues though. I've told folks their plastic bottle is about to blow away (overlooking lands end, right over the ocean). The person picks it up, walks a bit further up the trail and throw it in the bushes. I've had folks throw their cigarette butt on the side of the road on Independence pass. I asked them to pick it up, and they noodled around at the ground with their foot as if to find it, then hop in their car and take off.

We should design for some irresponsibility and more so in places where there isn't much environmental consciousness.


You're referring to anecdotes. Maybe the sort of behaviour is widespread, but even if it is, you then need to prove it's having much of an impact on the environment, and even then it's a drop in the ocean compared with the damage done via climate change and water consumption.

We need to get out of our parochial ideas about waste. Plastics are aesthetically bad, but other forces are quantitatively way worse.


> Plastics are aesthetically bad, but other forces are quantitatively way worse.

I don't agree with this line of reasoning. We have room for more than one priority, and solving the waste pipeline is ultimately one of logistics and political will, as well as elbow grease and the pluck to get out there and pick up some garbage.

I've seen whole gaggles of people walk past a bottle lying on the ground next to a trash can, and no one would stoop over and pick it up and put it in the trash. Humans have this disease on societal scales, and the oceans are taking hell because of it.


The shit loads of trash in the ocean are from impoverished developing nations who use their rivers as garbage dumps. Not the ignorant yuppie who let's his Pepsi bottle blow into the marina.

Don't let a few assholes be a surrogate for justifiable outrage that comes from a completely different source on an incomprehensibly massive scale.


> Don't let a few assholes be a surrogate for justifiable outrage that comes from a completely different source on an incomprehensibly massive scale.

Oh I'm well acquainted with the problems in developing countries and they are disproportionately responsible for the state of the oceans. However, I'd say that they are all just degrees of the same problem. I've picked up lots of trash in developing countries, but also plenty along American highways, even in the most scenic areas of the country, and even seen it here and there even in the cleanest countries (Japan, Switzerland, Germany). I met some really nice people all over New Zealand who as volunteers simply go out and pick up garbage off the beach, in the bushes, trees, rivers, whereever it occurs. They recognize other places are shitholes but that doesn't stop them from doing something about the trash where they live. If you join in, in short order you can't help but realize that it isn't all washing up from some shithole in Southeast Asia, but a lot of it comes from local sources. Litter and dumping are universal problems.

Don't fall prey to the "solving the biggest problem first" fallacy. Yes, we need to fix the pipeline and help those countries develop waste management systems, we need to stop producing so much plastic, but hell, when there is trash laying around, just pick it up! Getting people involved in doing this is the best way for them to see that this is a widespread problem, not just some trashy fuckwits over there that we can blame it all on.


I agree with you completely. Well said.


>Plastics are aesthetically bad..

In many parts of the ocean we are way past aesthetics.

73% of Deep-Sea Fish Have Ingested Plastic: > https://www.ecowatch.com/plastics-deep-sea-fish-2536726086.h...

Whale Died Of Starvation After Eating 80 Plastic Bags Off Thailand's Coast: > https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2018/06/04/whale-die...

All UK mussels contain plastic and other contaminants, study finds: > https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/mussels-plastic-mi...


It probably won't come as a big surprise that I also would like to address the larger forces as well. That doesn't mean that we can't also want to address the garbage that is littering our oceans.


> As long as plastics are disposed responsibly in ways that don't damage plants and animals, what's the issue?

But they are not disposed of responsibly. Fish sold for human consumption increasingly contain plastic microparticles, which bind toxins.

The oceans already contain a vast amount of macro plastic which is disintegrating into microparticles and will be basically impossibly to remove.

This is new, it's getting worse, and we don't know what effect it will have on human health.


Seems to me the only way that wild fish will survive is if they become toxic to human consumption and even then we will probably keep eating them (see Japan and mercury contaminated tuna).


Energy appears to be obtainable sustainably (so a feeling manifests that it’s okay to waste it right now as long as we keep pedalling hard toward a clean solution ASAP). Plastic degradation appears to be a much harder problem. Also of course, helps that plastic garbage is “visible and ugly”, whereas climate change is abstract.


This is also my way of thinking. Don't worry about engergy, worry about waste and chemicals instead.

Solve all problems through more and more green energy (recycling, reusing, cleaning etc.) and smarter and smarter robots (cleaning, separating, mechanical solutions instead of chemicals).


The issue with food waste is limited phosphorus supplies for fertilizer.


The decision to use glass as the de-facto re-usable container medium has always driven me nuts. I think the "marketing" is that it's slightly "harder" (mentally) to throw away a nice glass bottle than it is a plastic container because we've been so conditioned to throw out the plastic ones.

I've long wondered why retailers don't offer a "refill" option for items like milk and liquid cleaning products. The bottles for laundry detergent in particular are usually thick plastic that rightfully could serve their purpose for a very long time. The store could have a big tank of the stuff and consumers can bring the re-usable bottle in for a refill at a worthwhile discount. Similar to what some retailers do with water and those re-fillable 5-gallon jugs. Perhaps the economics don't favor this for other products, but it seems like banning plastic in favor of heavier and less-re-usable options is just political hype without real examination, as you point out.


In Ukraine, there is a big French supermarket chain called Ашан (auchan.ua), in which people can buy liquid cleaning products by the volume. For example, if you need a litre for dishwashing cleaning soap, you can go and pull a lever and fill an appropriate size plastic bottle. It's their own brand and it's very cheap. I'm not 100% sure if you can bring and use any plastic bottle, or you have first get it from them.

They also have huge crates of pasta and other grains where you can simply shove how much you want into a plastic bag, weight it and pay at the till.

No need to wrap those items in boxes and more containers.

While Ukraine has many environmental problems (it's not easy or common to recycle, large % of uneducated population about these issues), it has some good ideas and policies like these.


That's excellent. It's surprising even high-end specialty stores in the US (e.g. Whole Foods) don't do more of this.


It's the same problem that you see in Japan to an even greater degree, consumers perceive packaging as giving the product added value, so market forces push high-end retailers away from no-packaging because it's associated with discount/low end shops. In the US you can buy lots of things in 'Bulk' if you go a store like WinCo, which is marketed as being cheap. Additionally the Bulk foods just aren't as fresh as what you'd find packaged by the half-pound at Whole Foods as least in my anecdotal experience.


The Whole Foods in my area has various bulk foods (through Sprouts has FAR more) and has bulk body products (soaps, lotions, shampoos, etc.).


It’s suprising that even Auchan in France doesn’t do this.


I hope you understand the irony of using a plastic bag for this...


I assume the use of plastic in most cases is reduced since it only needs to travel from store to home.


Some detergent makers actually do sell refill bags that use far less plastic. There's also been a resurgence of milkmen in London and some other places, where you leave out your empty bottles and get a refill. While there aren't milkpeople where I live, there are a few places where I can pay a deposit on a glass bottle and then exchange it for a full bottle whenever I need.

It's not widespread by any means, but it is happening.


The re-usable detergent bags are nice, and many countries do distribute milk in thin plastic bags that you then empty into a pitcher at home.

But as parent points out, exchanging glass bottles isn't really better for the environment (in terms of CO2) as compared to properly disposing of plastic. No real reason why those deposit+refill bottles need to be glass; they could just as well be quality plastic and reduce some transport-weight. Similarly having a guy driving a truck around to deliver heavy liquids seems inefficient when you could just as well bring all your plastic bottle back to the store at one time and refill from big tanks there.


> many countries do distribute milk in thin plastic bags that you then empty into a pitcher at home.

Nonsense - you put the whole bag in a pitcher and then snip an end off the bag! No need to do any dishes afterwards.


Part of it is also that it's a lot more inert in terms of chemical reactions or leeching than plastic is.


Would you mind providing some links to these biodegradeable plastics? The last time I checked bio-degradeable plastic was nothing more than a marketing sleight of hand: Essentially just micro plastic bound together with something biodegradeable like corn starch. The plastic still enters the environment, skips the part where it breaks down from large pieces to tiny ones, yet still contaminates the enviroment.


I see two problems with your argument.

One - you are giving humans and plastic a lot of benefit of doubt. Time and again, it is demonstrated that human convenience trumps environmental concerns. So governments can have state-of-the-art recycling facilities but getting people to co-operate is an uphill challenge.

Second - the nature of plastic itself. You are basing sustainability on cost to environment in production but not taking into account the cost of disposal. The world is rapidly moving towards sustainable sources of energy and thus energy consumption is becoming less of a concern. Glass, cucumbers etc can be sustainably disposed off or recycled but plastic can't be - at least not all kinds currently in use/production.

And the cucumber example is a little disingenuous. A lot of the cucumber product is fast moving and fly off the shelves rapidly. Number of cucumbers being actually consumed is >>> than the number of cucumbers being spoiled. But the environment has to deal with sum total of all the plastic used to wrap the cucumber - even those which were consumed rapidly and would have not been spoiled at all.


>Second - the nature of plastic itself. You are basing sustainability on cost to environment in production but not taking into account the cost of disposal.

If you just burn the wrapper in your fireplace, it'll produce less than 6g of CO2. We're talking about the equivalent of half a teaspoon of gasoline. Growing and transporting a cucumber produces about 1kg of CO2. The wrapper is not the problem.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S146290110...


But we want the cucumber, and any leftover cucumber will decompose to nothing - it doesn't require any specialised waste processing. The 1kg of CO2 to grow and transport the cucumber is a spent cost, but half a teaspoon of gasoline for every single cucumber is an obscene environmental cost.

The same argument applies to your steak - the environmental cost of the steak is irrelevant, because the steak is the product we want, and again, leftover steak disappears without trace in very short order. The issue is the packaging, which we don't want but hangs around for half a millenia if disposed of irresponsibly.

The goal of this part of the initiative is to deal with that "last mile" problem of irresponsible waste processing, because we can't trust people to dispose of plastics properly. That will inevitably have a knock on effect on the rest of the supply chain, because now companies can't sell products which use single use plastics in that area, so they'll look at alternative ways of packaging their product.

That might result in some products having shorter shelf lives, but those products don't require complex waste management practices - they just move to different levels of the food chain.

The other environmental issues such as the transport cost are an entirely separate concern which aren't impacted by this move at all.


The environment is more than a single dimension. I'm not going to dispute your stats on individual items here--as far as CO2 goes, maybe you're right. But the oceans and landfills are filling up with non-biodegradable plastic garbage that is weakening ecosystems all over the planet. We need to get our waste pipeline under control at all stages, and plastic packaging is garbage for a long term plan. As evidence I cite every beach in the world. I'll take the spoiled cucumbers and milk; it's wasted energy, it contributes to ecological impact, but ultimately biodegradable.


Landfill waste doesn’t generally end up in the oceans. Landfills aren’t the problem, it’s the bad management of waste, typically by countries that care more about basic survival than the effect of their trash on a whale. A villager in rural China doesn’t typically have the luxury of caring as much as some Instagraming Brooklynite. Creating better processes around waste management is going to have a much larger and predicatable effect than outright bans — which can have unintended consequences that the “smart people” fail to predict. Blanket bans on DDT are a good example, sounded good, until millions more people died of malaria. (I am not suggesting we continue or end the DDT ban, it’s just an example of the effect of a policy that was driven by emotion rather than a rigorous scientific process.) It’s possible that banning plastic could have unforeseen consequences that haven’t been considered by the simpletons that typically are charged with making government policy.


> It's a net win, because the environmental impact of wasted cucumbers is far greater than the environmental impact of a gram or two of polyethylene wrapping.

Will need citation for that.


Producing a cucumber results in CO2 emissions of about 1kg (3.3kg CO2 per kg product, avg weight ~300g). Shrink-wrapping a cucumber increases the average shelf life from 9 days to 15 days in refrigerated conditions and from 2 days to 5 days in ambient conditions.

Producing a kilogram of polyethylene film packaging emits about 2.7kg of CO2. The wrapping on an average-sized cucumber weighs about 2g, producing an additional 5.4g of CO2 emissions and increasing the total carbon footprint of the cucumber by ~0.54%. About 12% of cucumbers delivered to US retailers go unsold due to damage, spoilage or other loss.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S146290110...

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3550898/

http://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Carbon_Methodology_-...

http://www.mdpi.com:8080/2077-0472/5/3/626/pdf


While carbon emissions are an important consideration, they are not only impact of plastic. Plastics often end up in the ocean where they cause havoc with not just marine marine life, but also people.

It is not just about viewing unsightly plastic, but also ingestion of plastic and chemicals associated with plastic such as phthalates and endocrine disruptors. While spoilage is in issue, so are the various health problems associated with plastic. While there are too many unstudied plastic associated chemicals to quantify the impact, a number of them are clearly associated with cancer, obesity and infertility.

This month's issue of National Geographic is devoted to the problem of plastic in the ocean and is worth a look.


As brutal as it might seem, plastic pollution is not a high priority. It makes for some shocking and upsetting photos, but it's not a fundamental threat to the marine ecosystem. The sources of marine plastic pollution are non-obvious and can be mostly mitigated through better management of waste rather than elimination at source.

Ocean acidification due to rising CO2 levels is a cataclysmic threat to the marine ecosystem. A relatively small decrease in pH could lead to the extinction of many key invertebrate species and the complete collapse of some habitats.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean_acidification

The health risks posed by plastics are marginal at worst. There are some legitimate concerns about certain persistent organic pollutants, but plastics are not the primary sources of exposure to these compounds and their use is largely under effective control.


In Mumbai, it's a high enough priority to justify doing something about it. There may be bigger threats to the marine ecosystem, but this isn't a situation where relative privation is appropriate - this part is fixable, so why not fix it?

The problem with "better waste management" is it requires involvement on an individual level, and individuals can't be trusted to do it. Elimination at source removes the responsibility for the consumer and reduces the requirement for complex waste processing. That's a win for everybody.


It's unknown if wrapping cucumbers would reduce the % that goes to waste. It's also likely that the 12% of cucumbers that go to waste also include those that are shrink wrapped. Extending shelf life of produce won't matter too much, if customers are looking at the date which the produce was shrink wrapped and buying the 'freshest' wrapped cucumber.

The problem here is that if cucumbers are going to waste, retailers are not managing their inventory well. That means way too many cucumbers are being produced and sold to retailers. This is all in the name of profit, at the expense of the environment.

CO2 emissions are not the only environmental issue. While you may downplay the effect plastics have on the environment compared to CO2, it's still a problem nonetheless.


> the environmental impact of wasted cucumbers is far greater than the environmental impact of a gram or two of polyethylene wrapping.

You're comparing the transportation costs of cucumbers to the production costs of plastic wrap, this conflated comparison seems disingenuous to me.

It also needs to be qualified that whatever truth is in that statement only applies to cucumbers that went to the grocery store and weren't sold. It's not true for cucumbers that dry up in the field where they grew.

Fixing that problem has nothing to do with cucumbers and everything to do with making sales and transportation more efficient.

> The plastic wrapper produced ~10g of CO2 and required ~100ml of water to produce; the steak produced ~7kg of CO2 and required ~4,000 litres of water to produce.

I'm curious what water usage has to do with this? Water used to raise a cow gets to be used again, right?

> As long as it is disposed of responsibly, a whole trash bag full of plastic packaging has a negligible environmental impact compared to a single portion of beef.

Are you claiming that every kg of beef production releases more c02 than every kg of plastic production? How do you figure that?


>You're comparing the transportation costs of cucumbers to the production costs of plastic wrap, this conflated comparison seems disingenuous to me.

Cucumbers are wrapped in plastic to enhance their shelf life and reduce waste due to spoilage. If the environmental impact of the plastic is lower than the environmental impact of the cucumbers that would be lost due to spoilage, then it is a net environmental benefit. I have provided references to support this argument in another comment in this thread.

I'm curious what water usage has to do with this? Water used to raise a cow gets to be used again, right?

Water loops around endlessly through the water cycle, but clean water is a limited resource. The run-off water from cattle feedlots, grazing pastures or the fields used to grow cattle feed cannot be readily recaptured in a usable form; this run-off water will have polluting effects on aquatic life due to contamination with nitrates.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_zone_(ecology)

>Are you claiming that every kg of beef production releases more CO2 than every kg of plastic production? How do you figure that?

Yes. I found the figures in published reports. Producing a kilogram of polyethylene packaging film results in about 2.7kg of CO2 emissions, from refining the oil through to disposal. Producing a kilogram of beef results in about 39kg of CO2 equivalent emissions from farm to plate, made up partly from direct energy inputs and partly from the methane and nitrous oxide produced by the cattle, which are significantly more potent warming gases than CO2.

http://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Carbon_Methodology_-...

http://static.ewg.org/reports/2011/meateaters/pdf/methodolog...


I understand your argument about the net c02 benefit of wrapping cucumbers in plastic. It doesn't mean plastic should be used or that it's good. You're not comparing the benefits of plastic wrap to the benefits of increased engine efficiency, or the c02 benefits of improved sales cycles or local agriculture vs global conglomerate food producers.

Drawing any conclusion from your c02 net benefit calculation assumes that we continue to do business exactly as we do today without improving, and ignores the possibility that there might be a point where there is no net benefit to wrapping cucumbers. The sources you provide elsewhere in this thread conclude that improving the processes involved in production of foods is where we should focus, not that we should wrap more things in plastic.

If we could sell 100% of cucumbers without wasting any cucumbers and without using plastic, that would be better than wrapping them in plastic, right? Unnecessary use of plastic is not good for the environment, right?

This cucumber thing feels like a sideshow distraction to sing the praises of plastic. Unnecessary single use water bottles are a massive global problem. Cucumbers, not nearly as much. There are legitimate uses of plastic, and I'd be happy accepting wrapping some veggies in exchange for getting rid of single serving plastic water bottles and the many other unnecessary uses of plastic that pervade.

> The run-off water from cattle feedlots, grazing pastures or the fields used to grow cattle feed cannot be readily recaptured in a usable form

Not immediately, but next year, right?

> this run-off water will have polluting effects on aquatic life due to contamination with nitrates.

You mention the pollution from agriculture but leave out the pollution from plastic production. Plastic production has immediately toxic pollutants, causing high rates of cancer to workers and nearby communities. Not to mention plastic waste itself being damaging pollution, with a lifespan far longer than nitrates.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plastic_pollution

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3327051/


>the c02 benefits of improved sales cycles or local agriculture vs global conglomerate food producers.

Do you have any data to support the notion that there is a net CO2 benefit to localizing agriculture? Considering how impacted agriculture is by locality, That seems vastly less efficient than large scale industrialized agriculture, and would be honestly quite surprising.

>Not to mention plastic waste itself being damaging pollution, with a lifespan far longer than nitrates.

As has been pointed out elsewhere in this thread, the real issue isn't the consumers of Cucumbers, its developing countries and China[1] using their rivers and oceans for mass waste disposal.

[1] https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/02/ocean-plasti...


> Do you have any data to support the notion that there is a net CO2 benefit to localizing agriculture? Considering how impacted agriculture is by locality, That seems vastly less efficient than large scale industrialized agriculture, and would be honestly quite surprising.

I pointed out that @jdietrich wasn't considering any of the many potential alternatives to wrapping produce in plastic, I didn't claim there's a net c02 benefit to local farms.

I don't think c02 emissions represent the sum total of "evironmental impact" as was implied multiple times above. c02 is important, but there are other important factors being ignored in this thread.

Implicit in your question is your assumption that large scale ag is more c02-efficient than local farming on the whole, which I would ask you to justify first. I don't know how to compare local farms to Conagra fairly, and I don't conduct c02 emissions research myself. But Conagra doesn't exist for efficiency, they exist to make money. Of course they value efficiency, but I would expect the scale of their operation adds more logistical problems to the food supply than it solves. They need to use far more transportation, refrigeration, processing and packaging than local food suppliers.

"Transportation of food accounts for about 11 percent of the GHG emissions from the food system."

"The energy used for refrigeration results in one of the main GHG effects from food production. Some products require constant refrigeration as soon as they leave the farm."

"Meat that is discarded in retail, industry and the home accounts for 20 percent of the total GHG emissions of meat production"

http://msue.anr.msu.edu/uploads/resources/pdfs/Local_Food_Sy...

What do you mean when you say local ag "seems vastly less efficient"? Why? What efficiencies are there that offset the extra transportation, refrigeration, processing, and storage costs that global ag companies have over local farms?

Perhaps implicit or assumed in your point of view is the idea of growing the same produce locally that one would buy in the store, without changing consumption patterns at all? Is that what you meant by "considering how impacted agriculture is by locality"? I'm imagining some change in purchasing behavior and I recognize that growing bananas & coffee isn't possible everywhere.


>I don't think c02 emissions represent the sum total of "evironmental impact" as was implied multiple times above.

I completely agree. I'm also very reluctant to believe any report that estimates GHG emissions from industry, because I believe industry has a very real reason to misrepresent themselves in such reports. Whether that industry is growing and delivering tomatoes or LiPo Batteries.

>Conagra doesn't exist for efficiency, they exist to make money.

efficiency = money, i thought that was obvious. I'm a pretty strong believer in the power of markets.

>"Meat that is discarded in retail, industry and the home accounts for 20 percent of the total GHG emissions of meat production"

Not sure the relevance of that bit, how anyone can care about the environment and not be vegetarian is completely beyond me. I cringe everytime I go out to eat seeing how much meat gets tossed.

>Is that what you meant by "considering how impacted agriculture is by locality"?

Yes.

>I'm imagining some change in purchasing behavior

I'd call that fantasy. If we can't get people to drive fuel-efficient cars even with tax incentives, how are we going to get people to give up blueberries and pineapple in fruit salad? Especially considering how bad meat is, and how few are willing to give it up or even let those around them give it up--as being vegetarian for the last decade has taught me (/grandstand) The best thing we could do would be to create GMO versions of crops that need long distance transportation that either don't have the same environmental requirements to grow or are able to be transported without refrigeration, because the market isn't going to change. Regardless, we've got tens of millions living in the Desert South West, I don't foresee them all living on prickly pears.


> I'm also very reluctant to believe any report that estimates GHG emissions from industry

Same!

> efficiency = money, i thought that was obvious.

We have to be careful here. We've just switched to talking about overall production efficiency now, not the c02 byproduct efficiency that was being referred to. There is no t much of a direct market force to be efficient about c02 byproducts, in fact often the opposite, money and production efficiency is a force against reducing c02 emissions.

> how anyone can care about the environment and not be vegetarian is completely beyond me.

That's a great point. Not to mention Americans just eat too much. We could make huge improvements by eating less.

>> I'm imagining some change in purchasing behavior > I'd call that fantasy.

That's a fair point, for as long as we have these options. A willing change in purchasing behavior might be unrealistic.


"A lot of people bemoan the plastic wrapping on cucumbers, but that wrapping doubles the shelf life of the product. It's a net win, because the environmental impact of wasted cucumbers is far greater than the environmental impact of a gram or two of polyethylene wrapping."

A gram or two, multiplied by millions of cucumbers and other food products wrapped in plastic. We produce more than we need to consume. Grocery stores are buying more produce and wasting more, and farmers are growing more.

CO2 emissions is a big problem, but so are plastics. Just because one produces more CO2 than the other doesn't mean we can't tackle both problems together. And the issue of plastics is not that of CO2.

Plastics are useful - I agree. However they are overused not for their usefulness, but for convenience. Produce doesn't need to be wrapped in plastic in grocery stores. Restaurants need not use plastics for takeout orders. Iced drinks don't need to be contained in plastic cups, nor do they require straws. Plastic bags are absolutely unnecessary, and there are other alternatives that work just as well.


That's all true, couple of years ago it made more sense to actually burn plastic waste, e.g. to use it to make steel than to recycle it. But the problem in India and China is that the plastic is dumped in the rivers and ends up in the food chain where we are all eating it later on. Steaks and glass bottles do no harm to the environment when just thrown away


Cucumbers are more harmful than plastic?!? I stopped reading right there. One timely biodegrades, the other doesn’t. That’s the whole problem.


Cucumbers do not spontaneously emerge from the ground in an untouched rural idyll and teleport themselves to your supermarket. Putting a cucumber on the shelf of your local supermarket produces about 1kg of CO2 emissions. Atmospheric CO2 isn't biodegradable.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S146290110...


Ummm... this is about plastic waste not CO2 production. I agree that food can be better recycled into compost.


This is exactly the kind of tunnel vision that annoys me.

Things take much more energy to PRODUCE than to dispose of.

Agriculture is incredibly energy, land, and water intensive.


Same response as prior... this article is about plastic waste clogging rivers not CO2. Yes, there are other problems that also need better solutions. Stop conflating different problems. I have news for you: they don't plastic wrap cucumbers to save on CO2.

EDIT: And, yes, I have tunnel vision on solving the problem presented in the article not some other problem. There is no price for carbon that is inducing agricultural producers to minimize it.


And plastic intensive as well.

A single plantation of 1 ha of olive trees in super high-density mode uses around 1700 PE cups, 1700 PVC shoot protectors and 2,5 km of PVC drip irrigation tubes, not to mention the tying.

Melon production also directly uses plastic, albeit temporarily. Greenhouses need repair and maintenance.

Also worth of mention all the herbicide/fungicide/insecticide plastic containers. Only these last have an actual though-of destination for recycling, which is mandatory. These have to be washed and made unusable, to avoid accidents, which means forgetting about 2 out of 3 Rs in this case.


We can and should do better. What if we had a robot that would drive through the fields, detecting weeds and crushing or cutting them out instead of chemical solutions? Couldn't we deliver the water more directly as well?

Shouldn't transportation use battery powered vehicles instead of fossil fuel based vehicles?

Can't we steam wash with renewable energy?

Maybe it costs more to do some of these things now, but I think folks could use some good goals to work toward.


On a happy note "no-till" is starting to prove itself. There are mixtures of effectiveness and chemical usage but checkout the No Till vids the USDA is promoting https://www.youtube.com/user/TheUSDANRCS


> Things take much more energy to PRODUCE than to dispose of.

Right. Plastic takes a lot more energy to produce than cucumbers (and today a large portion of plastic production is non-renewable energy, compared to the solar that grows cucumbers). Plastic production also results in much more c02 byproduct than the production of cucumbers.

The 'evidence' against cucumbers above was to count the c02 byproduct of transporting the cucumbers, not how much c02 they give off while growing. The same applies to all the plastics in the grocery store too, they also have to be transported, so that argument is completely moot. If you want to reduce c02, it's irrelevant to pit veggies against plastic, we simply need to make vehicles more efficient. BTW, I'm not arguing against the paper; if you read the paper's abstract, that exactly the conclusion they come to as well. It seems like @jdietrich is either confused about what it's saying, or is trying to spin or cloud the issue.

If you remove the argument of transportation from the equation, plants are a net negative in c02 emissions. Plants absorb more c02 than they produce. The more plants we grow, the more c02 we save. Not so for plastic, which produces 3-6 kg of c02 per kg of plastic in the production of plastic alone, not counting the transportation.

> Agriculture is incredibly energy, land, and water intensive.

Right. So what? This sentence seems to completely misunderstand that using energy (the sun), land, and water to grow food is environmentally friendly because it's renewable. All the energy and land and water we use to grow plants we get to keep using over and over again with positive environmental benefits.

It's our man-made processes, especially the ones that burn fossil fuels, that are causing almost all the problems we have; cars, machines, plastic production, etc.. c02-wise, farm equipment is a small portion of that, transportation is a much large piece of the pie.


I recommend you continue reading. It is an insightful comment and might just broden your horizon on this topic.


This is all well and good, in a country with clear garbage pickup schedules, where people put their plastic in their garbage bin, and a garbage truck comes to take it away into a landfill.

Unfortunately, in countries with plastic pollution problems, there are a large number of externalities that your essay did not account for. Or, more specifically one large externality - when people are done using it, they throw it out.

Until the garbage disposal situation gets resolved, it makes perfect sense to demonize and ban plastic. If you want plastic back, maybe this is an incentive to get garbage disposal fixed.


So that last 'graph got me wondering, and knowing that there are basically no plastics recycled where I live, I looked up if cling film, or polystyrene (a typical steak wrapping) could be recycled in Seatlle, and the answer is no.

In fact it looks like the answer is no most everywhere. And while cling film does degrade after decades, while polystyrene might take multiple 100,000s of years.

Which means the problem might be the steak if the wrapper is disposed responsibly, disposing responsibly is the real problem, and likely impossible.


What's irresponsible about just landfilling it after it has served its purpose? You're taking a small amount of oil that started off underground, and then isolating it back under ground.

The main problem appears to be with people who litter, and in areas that don't have a sanitation system to carry away and isolate garbage like this.

Recycling plastic is nice, but the point of GP's post is that even without it, it has the potential to massively reduce waste.


See if your grocery store's plastic bag recycling can take it.

Cling film can't be recycled with glass/plastic/paper because it ties up the machines, but here in upstate NY you can put it in with grocery bags, ziplocks, and other thin plastics at the in-store drop-off. We started doing this as well as a composting service and it's remarkable how much emptier our trash bin is now - half the volume, easily.


This exactly sums up the problem. It's no use being able to recycle everything if doing so requires everybody to sort their waste and take it to different places. Most people won't do that.

If we remove single use bags and cling film (yes, cling film is going to be a tough one), you're no longer reliant on the consumer to responsibly manage their waste.

There's a trade off. You're no longer sorting waste, and you're still generating less waste, but reduced shelf lives mean you now need to shop for fresh produce more often, potentially using more fuel and offsetting any gains. But you're no longer producing waste that takes centuries to decompose.


CO2 is only one environmental impact factor. Plastic waste is devastating for our oceans. Reducing plastic usage and CO2 should be twin goals.


>Plastic waste is devastating for our oceans.

CO2 is having a far more severe impact on the oceans through acidification. All of the world's major coral reefs have experienced severe bleaching events; the IPCC has predicted the complete collapse of many reef ecosystems if CO2 emissions are not brought under control.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean_acidification


Why not figure out why plastic ends up in the ocean and solve that problem? Motor oil in the oceans is far more dangerous than plastics, but no sane person is advocating banning lubricants. Instead laws and practices were developed to ensure used oil doesn’t end up in storm drains and water supplies.


You can't compare CO2 and plastic wraps by weight, because the scale of the problem is very different.

According to Wikipedia, mankind emitted 33.5 Gt of CO2 in the year 2010, and the surface area of the Earth is 510072000 km^2. In other words, we add 66g of CO2 per every square meter of the Earth, every year.

Imagine an Earth where we add six ~10g plastic wraps per square meter, every year, in every corner of the world. It becomes clear that the reason plastic wraps are collectively a less serious problem is that there are much less of them in the first place, compared to CO2 emission.

In other words, you cannot just compare a single piece of plastic wrap with an equal mass of CO2 and claim they are equivalent. You're comparing apples and oranges.


It's hardly demonizing without a reason. Sounds almost like a "it's not the guns, it's the bad people" argument, but here plastics will continue to create problems most importantly in the form of microplastics, no matter how you regulate. We continue polluting our waters and the food we eat, and the longer we continue, the more difficult it will be to restore the situation, so we need drastic actions. On top of the obvious (see the related pictures), we have phtalates for example, that we don't know much about.


> A lot of people bemoan the plastic wrapping on cucumbers, but that wrapping doubles the shelf life of the product. It's a net win, because the environmental impact of wasted cucumbers is far greater than the environmental impact of a gram or two of polyethylene wrapping.

But that is endemic to our insane food system. I think plastic wrapped cucumbers aren’t worth having. If you can’t survive without literally destroying the environment, at least let other animals enjoy Earth.


> If you buy a beef steak wrapped in plastic, the problem is the steak, not the wrapper.

Oh no worries about beef, they're definitely handling that problem in India well.


This is the type of comment that keeps me coming back to hacker news!

Where did you get this information? Books? Care to share recommendations?


If you only read one book on the subject, read Dr David MacKay's Sustainable Energy Without The Hot Air. It clearly explains how we use energy, how we produce it and how we can sustainably match supply and demand. It gave me an intuitive understanding of energy, using quick order-of-magnitude calculations to figure out the really important issues. It's written from a British perspective, but the principles are universally applicable. Best of all, it's completely free to read online.

https://www.withouthotair.com/

I'd also highly recommend Factfulness by Hans Rosling. It reveals that most Westerners have a grossly distorted and irrationally pessimistic image of the world. It's not really about energy or environmentalism, but it fills a vital gap in our common understanding of the future - the immense, unstoppable rise of the global middle-class. Once you internalise the idea that there is no great divide between the "first world" and the "third world", everything else looks very different. A majority of the world's population are neither very poor nor very rich, which presents a completely different set of challenges with respect to sustainable energy and climate change.

https://www.gapminder.org/factfulness-book/

My other recommendation would be to make good use of Google Scholar and SciHub. A large proportion "debates" I see aren't really debates at all, because the key points being argued are incorrect or irrelevant. Scientific research doesn't necessarily give us answers, but it can stop us from arguing over stupid questions.


You seem to simply prefer effectively permanent waste over energy use. Many do not.


> If you buy a beef steak ...

...but you won't. Not in India.


That's the subject of a rather heated debate. India is religiously and ethnically diverse; a non-trivial proportion of secular Hindus do eat beef.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cattle_slaughter_in_India


Amen, amen, amen.

Plastic is good. Your (Govt's) inability to recycle plastic is the issue. No! the govt is going to blame someone and something else for its failures :sigh:


What an awesome logic... Plastic is better than organic stuff.


Just because it doesn't completely solve everything, that doesn't mean it isn't a step in the right direction.


Imposing a ban on "public" and practically making sure that it is followed by the huge population of India is really difficult. We have seen such bans imposed on public before, and none of them were successful till the date.

On the other hand, keeping an eye on the handful of (big) companies to restrict them from supplying plastic to people is comparatively an easy task and requires less (man, money and infrastructure) power.

Besides, government(s) can also think of funding research program(s) to synthesize an eco-friendly material alternative to plastic which can be produced with same cost as of plastic; or funding program(s) to at least efficiently recycle plastic directly proportional to its growing usage.


Arent there eco friendly alternatives already?


I remember that in Germany you can buy bags made from corn starch, but they're very thin and very fragile. You need to be really lucky to bring home your shopping bags safely and you definitely cannot reuse them. But you can put them on the compost, which is really cool! If they work on making it a little more robust, bags like that would be my first choice


What’s wrong with paper? They’re strong, biodegradable, and can use tree types that can be quickly grown.


Producing a paper bag has environmental impacts equivalent to three lightweight polyethythene bags. For cotton bags, it's about a 130x multiple. The best option is to reuse a thick nonwoven plastic bag until it's worn out; woven plastic or cotton bags are rarely re-used often enough to repay their greater costs of manufacture.

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/...


3x in which dimension(s)?

The paper bag can be easily recycled, will biodegrade, and not cause issues in our ocean.

Clearly people bringing their own reusable bags is best, but we're talking about disposable alternatives here.


Just a word of warning - some compostable and bio degradable bags only compost in an industrial facility.

http://www.capradio.org/articles/2015/02/17/is-compostable-c...


for some things sure e.g. Italy has had mandatory biodegradable shopping bags for a few years, but for other things, like coke bottles, it seems harder.

I mean, you can enforce glass bottles but that does not seem like a major improvement.


Glass bottles can be reused, like Germany does, or Spain did (sadly not any more).


plastic bottles can be recycled, but the problem, as I understood it, is thrash not being handled properly, so the fact that you have plastic bottles in rivers or shard of glass bottles does not change much.


AFAIK product packing is also included in the ban.

The articles here state that plastic used for storage and packing of goods is also banned. Including packing of tooth brushes. https://www.firstpost.com/india/maharashtra-ban-war-on-plast... http://www.freepressjournal.in/mumbai/maharashtra-plastic-ba...


This is more or less impossible impose given how good and things move around in India.

After a while it will just be a joke, and another bribe making scheme for audit/police.


It's tricky to bribe out of the situation especially if your product is being sold out there in the open. Your competition will tell on you or your consumers will notice.


You have to understand how things work in India. You competition will not tell on you and you customer want you to use plastic.


I live in the Philippines. The trash you see everywhere, in the streets and in the rivers is plastic bags and bottles. It sees that packaging actually makes its way to the dump.


Plastic is sometimes useful to preserve fresh food to some degree. Without plastic many goods wouldn’t be viable. Would be nice though if at least the necessary plastic was highly recycleable, as well as cost efficient etc.


There are grocery stores (like Sprouts in my area) that sell fresh food like produce that aren't packed in plastic. They're all loose items that you just pick up and put into your own bag (which hopefully is either plastic that you reuse, or just a cloth bag). Then there are some grocery stores that pack most of their produce like vegetables all in plastic. If no plastic works for one, I don't see how it's necessary for the other.


My thoughts exactly. How will they sell ground meat, mayonase, salad dressing?


Go to a butcher and get it in paper. Make your own mayo...it's an egg, veg oil, and a little salt and pepper...store in glass. Salad dressing...store in glass. Metal tops. Pretty much the packaging up until the 70's.


+1. The prices of meat at the butcher section is usually the same as the one in the pre-packaged meat section.

As for mayo, maybe just eat less of it as it isn't exactly healthy. Or get the ones in glass bottles. Same goes with salad dressing.


Why not both? It could make what you want easier to do down the road once the public sees they too can live without


Wouldn't that create fragmentation in production, therefore possibly significant price increases due to the need of retooling of packaging and distribution?

Such measures work when done in the rich world with very large markets, for example, companies increase their standards due to EU regulations because they find that it's cheaper to retool themselves according to the EU and sell everywhere even if EU standards are not imposed everywhere, instead of maintaining two standards or losing the EU market altogether.


"Almost 50% plastic come directly from such consumer products sold by all FMCG companies. Such plastic material which is used as a wrapper (e.g. mineral bottles, wrappers of chocolates, biscuits, wafers, tobacco, etc.) is often useless and people tend to throw it right away."

I don't think this is going away until cities and states and government start doing something about this. Plastic bag banning is great, but it doesn't solve the entire equation. Plastic wrapping is just too convenient and preserves the lifetime of the product better than, say, paper. The transluscency of plastics also make it ideal for packaging food like meat, sushi, iced drinks, bread etc where being able to see the product is important. It also keeps in liquids nicely.

Someone needs to come up with an alternative to plastic that's biodegradable while still keeping plastic's properties that make it useful for packaging. I think that's going to be a huge industry. Landfills in my city are filling up and we're resorting to shipping some out to other cities. People like their plastic but yet complain when the city garbage rates go up every year.


You can already buy bags made from plant material (tuber and tapioca is popular). The fact that they are 3x the price and less durable than petroleum-based bags is probably because they have seen less research and mass production. This can change. I use them to chuck out the cat litter.


Probably the next move is banning all FMCG. We got used to the garbage such as soap, tooth paste etc. But I think we will be fine if they are not available.


Nothing is ever good enough for HN users, is it? A step in the right direction is always bad here in the comments.


Why instead? Why not in addition?


Why instead? Why not both?


> is often useless and people tend to throw it right away.

It's not useless per se. Packaging makes things look bigger on shelves and it gives a better perception of value for certain items (or makes them more visible on shelves). The good thing is that is going to become less and less relevant as we move more and more towards online shopping - I hope that at some point we just get a white box when its shipped directly from a warehouse.


Great to see that my city, Mumbai, is setting an example here. Plastic ban is a no brainer. People must move to either biodegradable carry bags and packaging or move to jute/steel/metal bags/utensils etc. Plastic would choke our world one day otherwise.

At the same time, I know it would be huge pain for a lot of people. In Mumbai, it rains really heavy. Like really really heavy. It rains more than 2x it rains in London and that too in just 4 months. So for a lot of people, plastic is literally the roof they need. Zoom in on Mumbai and you would see many shanties with blue "roof"s. That is all plastic. Hope municipality will allow such plastic sheets as they are not single use.


Doesnt Mumbai do that every couple of years and the the whole thing fizzles out and then some new bureaucrat tries it again.

This is from 2009

http://business.rediff.com/report/2009/dec/30/bmc-plans-to-b...


Yeah! That's true. Recently Ahmedabad city also bans Plastic like Mumbai. But, in last few years, I have heard this same news three times.


In Mumbai (and India), law enforcement is a huge challenge regardless of the laws.


What makes this issue worse is the existence of bullshit impractical laws, such as this.


Exactly. I read every year in the local Goa newspaper that government bans plastic in Goa. Yet every time I arrive nothing is changed.


Agreed, this is great, though I'm in Nairobi and they have banned plastic last year, setting a great example.


Delhi has been banning plastic for a long time but it keeps coming back.


Getting rid of single-use plastic would be a great first step.


Thank goodness somewhere is taking the obvious action of banning the packaging, which is really just pre-garbage.

However, banning packaging only works if it is backed by a system for precisely standardised, refundable and washable containers that food and other products can be shipped in.

You can't just say "no packaging". We need a MUCH better form of packaging than disposable/recyclable because recycling only works a little bit to solve the problem of packaging turning into garbage. That better form is re-usable standardised containers.


The washable aspect is key - they will have to take steps to work on that too. As a foreigner, when I'm in India, I know that I have to pay attention to (for example) which chai sellers the locals know to wash their cups properly, and to make sure that I see bottles of water are properly sealed before I drink from them. Water in particular will be a problem for foreigners if people start selling or serving it in jugs.


>Water in particular will be a problem for foreigners

Water is an immense problem for Indians. Diarrhoea is a major cause of childhood malnutrition, stunting and death. India still desperately needs clean water and adequate sanitation. The most important pledge in Narendra Modi's election campaign was more toilets.

https://www.prb.org/india-sanitation-malnutrition/


You can use the disposable clay chai cups. But I still think that made me sick.


Better to use paper packaging. For food it can be waxed like in the olden days.


Waxed, wrapped in plastic for advertising and packaged in a plastic net. Progress. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babybel


The wax is a petroleum product also..equally non-biodegradable.


Doesn’t paper bags literally mean demand for more papers and consequently more jungle would be destroyed?


No.

Paper bags don't add up to much. The Indians use vast numbers of small bags. I weighed a paper bag I got some fruit in just now, 7g. Divide by x to compensate for realistic recycling. A tree weighs several million grams. Not all of it becomes paper, but still, one tree is a lot of 7g bags.

Adding to that: Once the paper is burned or rots, the route back to a new tree is fairly short. Not like plastic, which forms new oil in fifty million years.


On top of that, these days paper isn't manufactured by cutting down forests we have more eco friendly ways of manufacturing paper, in and out of India


I was about to write that certified timber has a great sustainability record. You can recycle all of it and when it regrows it does so by pulling carbon from the atmosphere. But when I read the WP article [1] on sustainability of paper I saw that the actual problem seems not to be in the wood used, but in other pollutants released into nature when producing paper.

[1]: https://wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_impact_of_paper


Not really, new paper is mostly produced from recycled paper. What destroys the jungle is deforestation to create farmlands.


I didn't down vote you. Just want to point out that deforestation to create farmlands also includes tree plantations. Tree farms, as it were.

I live in Tasmania, which is notorious for chopping down old-growth forest, wood chip it mostly for paper products, and replace it with plantation timber.


It happened also in my homeland: Cantabria. I just think that the need for paper is mostly replaced by recycled paper, at least in theory.


It is my understanding that paper isn't made from jungle tree species. An increased demand for paper would lead to an increase in tree farms in temperate climates, not tropical.


I think this is a good step but what a lot of countries lack is also proper disposal of trash.

Landfills are a poor solution, better are clean trash burning facilities[1] that also produce energy as well as proper pre sorting.

China is building the largest in the world which is to open in 2020. [2]

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/13/science/earth/13trash.htm...

[2] https://www.sciencealert.com/china-is-building-the-largest-w...


The "ban single-use plastic" hype train seems illogical to me. Having your city littered with garbage is a government services problem - they should provide convenient waste disposal receptacles, empty them frequently to be disposed of properly, and give citations to litterers. We should not be cheering this short-sighted law.

I also don't understand why plastic in a landfill is all that bad. The fact that it is biodegradable is a positive here - it won't break down into toxic substances.

Evaluating environmental impact is a complex process. Everything we do has multiple consequences. I believe global warning is the most serious environmental disaster we are facing today. Plastics use significantly less energy in production and transportation (because of lower weight and less material needed.) With an eye toward AGW, how can paper packaging and burning refuse be seen as a responsible choice?

It is critical that we consider the effects of our consumption habits in a serious and reasonable fashion. I just don't see the anti-plastic panic to be rational or constructive.


> With an eye toward AGW, how can paper packaging and burning refuse be seen as a responsible choice?

Plastic takes oil and therefore carbon out of the depths of the Earth, until it eventually gets burnt, biodegrades or otherwise degrades and turns into CO2 contributing to global warming.

Trees instead take CO2 from the atmosphere, turn it into solid cellulose that we make paper from, until the paper biodegrades or gets burnt and returns to the atmosphere from which it came in the first place. If a new tree is planted for each tree that gets cut for paper, as is done in most developed countries, paper can be carbon neutral (it all depends on the source of the energy used for processing it).


Plastic is a nearly free byproduct of refining oil for fuel.


City services are expensive, why spend more money picking up trash, cleaning waterways, unclogging sewers, etc when you can do less of that? Particularly in developing countries which have scarce resources.

My city (Washington, DC) opted for a 5 cent tax on plastic bags. This caused use of them to drop 80% and been considered a huge success.


Because demand for plastic bags or similar substances doesn't evaporate. You're using a different substance instead of plastic, if you ban it. Using paper implies cutting down more trees, and paper doesn't have all the awesome properties that plastic has: high tensile strength per weight, impermeable to air/moisture, lightweight, etc.


Plastic bags are still available, they just cost a nickel now. I can't say I've noticed any more paper bags around, can't think of a store I shop at regularly where they are even available. I believe people are using reusable bags instead.


> The fact that it is biodegradable

...is something you just made up.

Most plastics aren't, and some of the ones that are marketed as biodegradable need to be put in a high-temperature bioreactor or something equally ridiculous in order to break down in a useful timeframe.

> I also don't understand why plastic in a landfill is all that bad.

Some portion of everything placed in a landfill will get in the water, but this is particularly true of lightweight and slow-to-degrade plastics.

> Plastics use significantly less energy in production and transportation ... With an eye toward AGW, how can paper packaging and burning refuse be seen as a responsible choice?

Incinerating garbage is an energy source in places like Norway.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/jun/14/norway-w...


> The fact that it is biodegradable is a positive here - it won't break down into toxic substances.

The problem is that most of these biodegradables take a few years to fully break down, which is slower than the amount we keep on adding garbage in the landfills. So it's a net positive inflow into the landfills.


Its less cheap (in energy and environmental impact) if people have to run around and empty receptacles multiple times a day to keep up with the water bottles.

Remember, everything we do has multiple consequences.


A landfill is open and birds etc will take items out of it.


The offset in reduced plastic use by consumers will be more than compensated with the rapidly growing e-commerce market.

I am terrified of the amount of plastic my Amazon purchases bring with their packing.

It is a step in the right direction, but the govt. should invest and provide alternatives, perhaps use existing research institutions to come up with new, eco-friendly packing materials, and popularize them.


I don't buy from Amazon, but weren't they pushing for minimal and plastic-free packaging? Has the program been dropped?


As far as I know that program is still a thing, but it has only ever been on a very limited subset of products. When it's available, they apply the shipping label directly to the product box and ship it like that.

Scroll down on this page for products with it available. It lists over 200,000, which is quite a lot, but is also a relatively small number for their scale: https://www.amazon.com/Amazon-Frustration-Free-Packaging/b?i...


Is it so? I haven't heard of it. I recently ordered a set of knives and they came wrapped in a plastic cover (black) and wrapped with a cardboard box. But the knives themselves are packed in plastic and cardboard boxes.

If I'd gone to a store, I could have picked them up by hand and avoided the plastic covering required for transport.

E-commerce generates additional non-biodegradable waste and that is a problem that has to be solved considering the rapid rise of online shopping.


At the store just the other day - shopkeeper ringing up the guy in front of me asked "Do you want a bag for that?" It was a product, in a box, wrapped in plastic. And the guy had his own canvas bag out already.

If he'd accepted, he'd have had the product in a box in a bag in a bag. My god. When does it all end?

What was the product? Plastic bags.


It's getting annoying when I go to a store. Put my backpack on the counter and get asked about a bag for the two small items I am buying.


Don't you think the store vendor just went through the trouble of unwrapping and disposing of the packaging you're describing?

I just went through a weekend guilt trip over the baby furniture we bought. Crib and dresser. Wasn't inexpensive, and "built from sustainable forests." 2 pieces of furniture, 5 garbage bags of styrofoam.

My alternatives would have been Ikea — more driving, assembly, and time consumed on my end, worse quality — or even higher end American-made products that would have cost 2-5x, where they'd be shipped freight, assembled, and white gloved into my house.


I do, and, apparently, coming from Amazon, "minimal and plastic-free" means that, if I order a single item, it will come in retail packaging (plastic tray to immobilize and cushion, inside a cardboard box that is at least 6 times the size of the product - hence the need for that plastic tray - inside shrinkwrap), and then that item will be placed inside another cardboard box that is at least 6 times the volume of the retail packaging for the item I ordered, so, in order to cushion it, I need a huge pile of those plastic air pillows.

It's a pretty huge amount of packaging and cushioning, about the amount you'd need if your package will be handled by drug-crazed chimpanzees (or USPS). But then it just gets loaded into the back seat of the car of whatever gig economy person does the Amazon deliveries in my neighborhood that day. I don't know what Amazon thinks these people are doing to necessitate that volume of packaging, or why they're continuing to employ them given that they think that is the case.

tl;dr, if they really were pushing for minimal packaging, I'd have expected a paper (or _maybe_ Tyvek, to protect against the elements) envelope with my address printed on it around the already-sufficient retail packaging, and nothing more.


Tyvek is a high density polyetylene. In other words, exactly same plastic as the bag you want to replace with it :).


Right. But at least a smaller amount of it than what you get with all those air pillows. And without the huge cardboard box, which is probably the biggest problem in the whole package from a carbon footprint perspective.


Maybe Amazon can alter it's processes so that protection from elements can happen at container, truck and last mile transport level, instead of package level.

At those levels, long lasting solutions can be used which might be far more eco-friendly in the long term.


This is nothing.

I was entering my workplace yesterday and as usual, the guard at the first checkpoint rummaged through my backpack. I was shocked when he said the plastic bag I was using to protect my notebooks from rain could not be taken inside. Upon asking for an explanation, he said plastic bags are outlawed and we cannot risk them in company premises.

I had to keep that bag in my vehicle trunk and then was allowed to enter premises.


This sounds like a bizarre misunderstanding.


Please elaborate.


Since I doubt there is actually a law against bringing plastic bags into certain buildings, it sounds like the security guard just misunderstands


In Mumbai, citizens seen to be carrying plastic bags are liable for fine of 5000 INR for first time offenders and up to 3 months prison time.


How do you enforce this? What if I just kept a year-old plastic bag around?


You don't argue with the police.


Doesn't matter if it's 1 y/o or 10y/o. All plastic bags are banned.


Wait, why do you have guards rummaging through your bags? Do you work in a high-security facility?


Some IT companies in India check your bags "for security purposes" while coming in/going out, or both. Yes, very disrespectful and insulting, but no one revolts so it's been going on (while their HRs will give powerpoint presentations on how trust is "one of the pillars" of their company). Most of them have a (probably made-up) story of how it was not the case before but someone broke their trust by stealing code in a hard disk etc., but no one has actually seen that happening in-person.

Our software product company (headquartered in US) had the same policy in its Indian offices, and I (being a relatively new employee) last year pointed out in our surveys how hypocritical it is of the company to expect trust from the employees but not do the same in return. Fortunately they stopped doing it after that.


This has nothing to do with trust. One terror attack and the employees and their families would be getting back at the management for lax security and having made the big mistake of trusting their lives with the company. Workplace violence is a thing and it's better for everyone to go through security checks than risk liability. You never know how, when or why someone snaps (however mentally stable s/he was during recruitment). And if you think it's impossible for something like that to happen, just take a look at what happened at YouTube HQ few months ago.


I really hope this is sarcasm... You think it's appropriate for every employee to be searched before entering a facility because there might be a "terror attack"? How many IT workers are there in the country, how many attacks have occurred in IT offices, and how many attacks have been prevented by searching employees bags? Giving up personal liberties and freedoms out of unsubstantiated fears based on a few fringe cases is a slippery slope. Also, I highly doubt that's what the policy is even about. The person you are replying to is probably correct that the policy is an attempt to prevent employees from leaving with company data


It's like the TSA- Security theatre, not security that's being sold here


How do you prevent employees from leaving with company data if one copies all the sensitive data onto a pen drive? Does security check the pen drives too? It's actually ridiculous to cast aspersion on the security when their job is to prevent threats.

> You think it's appropriate for every employee to be searched before entering a facility because there might be a "terror attack"? How many IT workers are there in the country, how many attacks have occurred in IT offices, and how many attacks have been prevented by searching employees bags?

It just takes one attack to lose a loved one and put a family in complete disarray. In India there have been multiple terror threats to software companies in the past decade alone. You forget that the agencies work 24/7 preventing terror plots and if even one of them slips through it would be disaster for everyone involved. Multi layered security is the only way to thwart terror plots. Here are few examples:

1. http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-terror-plot-against-inf...

2. http://www.rediff.com/news/2007/jan/05blore.htm

3. https://www.indiatoday.in/latest-headlines/story/infosys-wip...

You can use logic and statistics to argue about probability of terror threats but none of your statistics takes into account the mental health or the radical motivation of an individual/group.

> I really hope this is sarcasm... You think it's appropriate for every employee to be searched before entering a facility because there might be a "terror attack"?

EDIT: I am not being sarcastic. I am being a realist. In an ideal world I wouldn't want any sort of security. But we don't live in an ideal world.


In our office bags were already not checked while coming in, but only while going out (including every two-wheeler owner's little trunk). And yes, I don't know why you find it so surprising, but any kind of flash/pen drive or storage device was one of the main things they were looking at - and if one was accidentally found in the employee's bag, they had orders to take it away. So yes, there main concern was data theft by employees (and may be small and big electronic devices as well).

Your links have no connection to the daily employees' bags getting checked (even the ones who've been working in the company for literally 20 years). They are all about terror 'threats' from outside. Of course outsiders need to be checked, not employees. In fact I can find no record of an IT employee in India bringing any terror causing instrument to his/her own office, ever.

Yes, the cars of our employees are still checked for safety while entering in the office premises (for bomb threat), and I don't have any problem with that.


So, from your links, nobody was actually killed by terrorists, nor has a security guard actually stopped any terrorist.

Meanwhile, you know who actually has killed Infosys employees? A security guard: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VN9MenY2dEs


> So, from your links, nobody was actually killed by terrorists

That is not a justification for no security checks. That's my only argument. If one is willing to go through security checks at malls, airports, movie theaters, sports game at a stadium, a music concert without any fuss I don't see why one would want to be treated differently at the workplace. You don't find anyone talking of "giving up personal liberties and freedoms out of unsubstantiated fears based on a few fringe cases is a slippery slope" when trying to enter any of these secured areas do they? I don't see people complaining about feeling insulted while being frisked trying to enter a stadium but the very same people feel insulted while being frisked entering their workplace!

> nor has a security guard actually stopped any terrorist.

Nope. I never claimed that a security guard actually stopped a terrorist. If you read my comment you would understand that I spoke of multi-layered security and that terror threats on those companies are real and not a figment of one's imagination. If those terror threats were not thwarted by agencies do you agree that having security at the gates of an IT enterprise would be a second line of defence? Or is your assertion that until there is a terror attack of significant magnitude one should not care about security?

> Meanwhile, you know who actually has killed Infosys employees? A security guard: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VN9MenY2dEs

So you say just because of this one incident we remove all security from these companies and let anyone walk in and out?

Maybe better security here: http://time.com/5226892/youtube-headquarters-security-silico... could have prevented 3 employees from getting injured don't you think?


If one is willing to go through security checks at malls, airports, movie theaters, sports game at a stadium, a music concert without any fuss I don't see why one would want to be treated differently at the workplace. You don't find anyone talking of "giving up personal liberties and freedoms out of unsubstantiated fears based on a few fringe cases is a slippery slope" when trying to enter any of these secured areas do they?

Yes. Yes, I do. In fact, I'm one of them. Thankfully I live in a relatively sane country, so there's no such nonsense except on airports, where we must comply with global rules.

By the way, Brussels - which as you may know has had a recent history of multiple terrorist attacks - doesn't have that nonsense either. Even in the main train station, where some poor lunatic tried to harm others and only ended up immolating himself, the doors are all wide open without any checks.

If those terror threats were not thwarted by agencies do you agree that having security at the gates of an IT enterprise would be a second line of defence?

My complaint wasn't with any security checks, it was with rummaging through people's bags. Guys carrying AK-47s are not going to be deterred by a bag check. Having secure doors that only open with a badge makes sense.

So you say just because of this one incident we remove all security from these companies and let anyone walk in and out?

Just like you never claimed a security guard actually stopped a terrorist, I never claimed we should remove all security. All I'm saying is that the importance of terrorists is being overblown. In practice, even security guards themselves are more dangerous.


Most hotels in India, and also nearly every large company, x-rays and checks bags before you are permitted to enter.

Of course, It's pure security theatre.


Nope. Nowhere close to "high-security facility". I work in a medium-sized IT services company.


The real reason to ban plastic so strictly in Mumbai is because plastic garbage chokes Mumbai's drainage systems and storm water system. And given the city's population and usage of plastic, the chokes are quite severe during the monsoon (rainy season) when it rains heavily. It is so severe that chokes can lead to extreme flooding and loss of life when it rains heavily and there is an onset of high-tide. The water sometimes has a few hours to leave the land and hence it is critical for the stormwater lines to work efficiently.

Come September this ban will be forgotten again as the monsoon season recedes. While the ban has environment benefits, "they" care little about the "environment"


The choking nullahs aren't merely full of plastic. It's debris from the massive construction, both private and govt. Has anyone seen road design in Mumbai? The "expressway" signal junctions are made of paver blocks. Gutters are full of mud. The floods won't stop even if all plastic vanished


> And given the city's population and usage of plastic, the chokes are quite severe during the monsoon (rainy season) when it rains heavily

Didnt the city even flood 2-3 days after the ban, when the govt was in full enforcement mode?


When will US cities do the same? Most restaurants offer plastic togo containers, which ends up in the landfill. Some restaurants even use plastic bowls and plates for dine-in customers, arguably so they don’t have to invest in equipment and labor to wash dishes.

With The China recycling ban, this becomes more of a pressing issue. I’m surprised cities aren’t outright banning or imposing a tax on the use of plastics at restaurants.


It needs to become fashionable to basically carry lots of reusable stuff with you. We “sort of” have this for coffee containers and shopping bags but it would be good if people could also always carry a metal fork, plate, cup, and even a reusable napkin at all times.

It’s one of those things that would remain weird if only a few people did it but wouldn’t be weird if most people did.

It would also require eating establishments to be set up for reuse, e.g. washing stations for people to clean off their stuff.


Why would that help?

Let's take going to a salad bar or buffet. Many health rules say that only clean plates may be used. For example, from http://EzineArticles.com/1402314 :

> There must be clean plates and other tableware at or adjacent to the buffet or salad bar and customers should be reminded, or notified if need be, that only clean tableware is to be used when returning to the buffet.

Most restaurants are "set up for reuse", i.e, they wash the utensils, plates, and cups already. They are set up to do this wholesale, and there are health codes concerning the quality of the cleaning. Eg, quoting from https://www.oregon.gov/oha/ph/HealthyEnvironments/FoodSafety... :

> If hot water is used for sanitization in manual warewashing operations, the sanitizing compartment of the sink shall be: (A) Designed with an integral heating device that is capable of maintaining water at a temperature not less than 77oC (171 oF); Pf and (B) Provided with a rack or basket to allow complete immersion of equipment and utensils into the hot water.

This is enough to scald someone in a fraction of a second (see http://www.accuratebuilding.com/services/legal/charts/hot_wa... ).

The hot water temperature in most homes is under 120 degrees F.

If you have "washing stations for people to clean off their stuff", then it will either use chemical treatments, or it will be at too low a temperature to meet health standards, or it will require specialized equipment and time - who is going to wait, say, 5 minutes for their dirty dishes to go through a commercial dishwasher, get cleaned, and cool down again?

I just don't see the benefits or even practicality of what you propose.


With enough pressure I could see a reusable-dishes-as-a-service type company. A restaurant could pay this service $x per month and the service would come daily to drop off clean containers and pick up used containers for cleaning and sterilization. Restaurants could have a deposit upon getting a meal, say $3. When you bring your containers back you get your $3 back (or $3 towards your next meal there?).

If multiple restaurants in your area used the same service, or if the dishes were standardized enough, then you could drop off your used dishes at multiple different places whenever you get take-out again.

Obviously this is "in an ideal world" thinking, but it seems like with enough economic pressure on the take-out industry it could start being feasible.


The earlier comment was about people bringing their own silverware, dishes, and cups, with a washing station at the restaurant.

I think you've switched it to takeaway containers for take-out? That's a rather different topic. Certainly we know that recycled glass containers worked for decades.

But the main issue is non-biodegradable objects. Why would we worry about returnable-reusable boxes to replace, say, cardboard pizza boxes?


I've been to upscale food courts where each vendor has their own clean plates and utensils. Food is served on these clean plates, and when you're done, you dump your dirty dish in a container which is later washed.


I believe what the OP wants is for everyone to wash their own dishes then-and-there, not have someone else wash it later.


That’s not very convenient. I like another suggestion in this thread: standardised components. Have shops hand out reusable metal cutlery rather than disposable plastic cutlery with a deposit scheme. You pay a few quid for the cutlery, but can return it anywhere and get your money back. The key is to make it ubiquitous, which makes it effortless for people.

You could still offer plastic disposable cutlery for those that needed it for some reason - but have a (small) charge. That should be sufficient to massively cut down the plastic waste. The UK introduced a 5p plastic bag charge which was really effective despite it being so cheap.

I realised I’m writing this as I’m eating a take-out lunch with a plastic fork. I have to trash it, but could very easily have used a returnable fork. It came in a paper bag which I can take back to the office and recycle.

Edit: Thinking about it, if having your own cutlery is a habit then it might not be so inconvenient.


Not sure I understood. Do you suggest that everybody carries their own cutlery to restaurants? Why? What's the relation with disposable stuff? Can't (don't most) restaurants have their own reusable stuff?

I like plastic banning, as soon as it's in place all around, we'll see another non-contaminant material (only a little more expensive) replacing plastic.


I've seen restaurants where they serve most of their food in plastic containers even for dine in customers. Most poke places for example always use a plastic bowl that patrons just throw away after they're done, along with plastic cutlery. Some restaurants serve water in cups with a plastic straw, which is also totally unnecessary.


Oh, I see... that's very unfortunate. The only kind of "restaurant" that does this shit over here is McDonalds (and similar US franchises) and it makes me shake my head. Do you know what's infuriating? They're now going all "green" in some spots. But instead of avoiding creating all the trash to begin with, they put it on you, providing four of five different cans for every type of trash, and patronizing signs on the walls so you work for them classifying and cleaning their shit.


The issues with the different cans, is that they need to be re-sorted manually anyway (usually by the city), since not everyone puts the right stuff in the right bins. All it does is it just gives the impression that the business is 'green'


Cutlery I would imagine being for takeout food, or fast food where there’s often plastic cutlery (around here at least). Even when dining in, though, my wife and I have been trying to remember to bring our own Tupperware containers for bring home any leftovers, instead of using the typical provided styrofoam packaging.


I don't quite understand why plastic cutlery for takeout food is necessary. Maybe if you're bringing it back to your office for lunch where you don't have access to cutlery (although you could always bring your own). I see families taking out food for home where they have cutlery and yet they take the plastic cutlery from the restaurants. It's ridiculous and it just highlights how humans value the convenience of just eating with plastic cutlery and throwing it away after eating, over the environment


An American family I visited a while ago would use paper plates and plastic forks for every meal at home to save on dishes. I was shocked, but they seemed to think it was standard behaviour in the US. Is it?


It's not really normal, but it's probably more normal than it should be.

Growing up, my family rarely used paper plates except in a few circumstances - parties where there are more people than you have plates for, and when going on a picnic. Aside from that we never used paper plates.


I wouldn't say it's standard but it doesn't surprise me. People who work late, have too much on their plate (pun), would probably not shy away from using a single use plate. I know I've done it myself (shame on me) but hey, I'm trying now!


No, it's not standard behavior.

You're most likely to see paper plates and plastic forks at picnics/cookouts and occasionally large gatherings where you may not have enough non-disposable dishes to serve everyone.


Every time I visit I’m shocked how much single-use plastics is used, daily. It’s part of the culture and thus hard to change


For some families, yes, it is.


Any idea on the demographics?


It's common in the rural southern United States. Big box stores sell hundreds of plates and napkins for a few dollars.

The justifications I've heard is that it's a lot of labor saved if the family is sufficiently large and the woman is expected to do all the cooking and cleaning.


No. Simply that I've visited people (I'm from the US) who do that.


I have heard similar stories from other people who visited USA. So it does seem to be a normal behavior.


As a USA-ian, I've never seen this and would be appalled if I did.


This was a first-hand experience of a German guy who lived as a exchange student in Florida. His host family would serve food in plastic plates to avoid doing dishes.


It's more of a poor (dare I say "trailer trash") southern thing in my experience.


> to save on dishes

To save what, money or labor? I fail to see how this could be economical in the sense "cheaper"?


I believe labour, all that time spent scrubbing plates...


And to think the dishwasher was invented in the US, :p.


Well, if you are comparing to a dishwasher. A cheap paper place costs about 2-3 cents. A dishwasher cycle is "pricy" if you consider the wear and tear, water usage, energy, and detergent.


I think it is even more important to ban micro plastics which have invaded our food supply and are ingested with even bigger negative consequences.


California does this to a certain degree.


I'm curious how this will affect the economy of the Dharavi slums where a huge portion of their economy is based around recycling goods found throughout the city. [1] It is great for the city to cut down on pollution, and I'm sure Dharavi will adapt, just curious is all.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dharavi


I'm from India.

This is one of the most asinine steps the Govt has taken. If plastic is banned, the need will be replaced by another substance (perhaps with similar properties; also demand for a need doesn't evaporate) which will overflow in our landfills. A wiser step would've been to figure out a way to recycle plastic, which has already been figured out by other countries ([1],[2],[3]). Instead, we're setting ourselves up to blame another substance a few years down the line.

We're inconveniencing people, ruining existing businesses and capabilities for a non-solution or at the very least pushing the problem to another substance another day. Completely asinine indeed. Deeds of the government as usual.

[1] https://inews.co.uk/news/environment/scandinavian-plastic-re...

[2] https://sweden.se/nature/the-swedish-recycling-revolution/

[3] https://guce.oath.com/collectConsent?brandType=eu&.done=http...

Edit 1: Comment about demand

Edit 2: formatting

Edit 3: added "...some years down the line..."


Why can't we agree to just do what Musk says about carbon: tax goods which create negative externalities for society?

You could even do it this way: write the law such that an institution, whose job is to eliminate these externalities, is created, and then funded only with taxes on said products.

There's two competing special interest groups to keep each in check so in theory it's even a institution which shouldn't have too much bureaucratic inertia.

There are economists who endorse the idea, it's called a Pigouvian tax--the most notable economist is Mankiw.


Carbon neutral atmospheric recapture of personal vehicle transportation carbon is probably about 600-700$ per ton of carbon. (Based off of practical experiments in the UK.) My read of the literature doesn’t show any hope of this number decreasing. A gallon of gasoline produces 20 lbs of carbon. This puts a carbon neutral tax on consumer gasoline at ~6-7$ per gallon. If you allow 20% “inefficiencies” (tax collection; frisson; profit margins), you’re at 7.2-8.4$/gallon. My fuel costs would go from 2.75$/gallon to ~10.50$/gallon. My yearly commute costs would go from ~1100$/yr to ~4000$/yr. I suppose it makes even a medium range electric vehicle look cheap—especially given the far cheaper costs of capturing carbon “at the stack” at the power plant would mean that central power wouldn’t be taxed as heavily.


The price of gasoline in the UK is currently over $6 per US gallon; A few years ago, it exceeded $9 per gallon. Most of that price is tax. The American way of life might be significantly affected by a recapture tax, but it wouldn't make a huge amount of difference in most of Europe.


Recapture is a rather extravagant way of pricing carbon. We don’t need to eliminate carbon emissions entirely overnight, we need a certain percentage reduction each year for a few decades, and the carbon cost necessary to achieve that will be a lot lower.


Well, yeah, that's kind of the point - to disincentivize harmful behaviour. The solution is to commute less, or get a vehicle that isn't so terrible for the environment. You're not really supposed to just keep wrecking the Earth, heave a big sigh, and pony up the tax...


Now if only we could do the same in Japan. I am always amazed to see individually-wrapped cookies wrapped in plastic, inside a box, wrapped by more plastic, inside paper inside a single-use shopping bag. I mean... C'MON!!!!


> Chaudhary, a taxi driver, said he had started carrying a cloth bag and that his local mutton vendor had begun wrapping the meat in newspaper rather than plastic sheets.

I am sure this is healthy.


FWIW, newspaper was the traditional wrapping for fish and chips in the UK. Many still use wraps printed to look like a newspaper.

The practice was common enough that it occurs in Heinlein's "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel" (p14 in my copy), which was written in 1958. The line is "I had the Centerville Clarion but it's only fit for wrapping salami."


Yes, it was the traditional way of doing things. But things have changed. Recycled paper contains diisobutyl phthalate and di-n-butyl phthalate. Ink residues in recycled paper may contain benzophenones and mineral oils. If they still use lead-lettered printing, you may got actual lead on your newspaper.


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