Governments and consumers need to get serious with these lobbies:
- Ban ALL single-use plastic (except for medical supplies).
- Heavily tax plastic packaging
- Tax breaks for glass and paper packaging
- Force plastic return deposit schemes at supermarkets _payed for by manufacturers_
- Define industry quotas for how much 'new' plastic is allowed to be made from crude and make companies bid for it in a "new plastic" market, this would enable buy in from petro-chemical businesses whose profit currently depends on volume.
Yes, product prices will increase but the reality is that the price is already there but is just currently hidden behind the recycling PR machine.
None of this requires ocean micro plastic cleaning tech, or plastic separating computer vision, it is purely political it is purely stopping this protectionism. It can change right now if people are outraged enough.
(I haven’t added up the total impacts of every option either; this is just something to consider.)
For example, glass is much heavier than the plastic used for bottles. If you have trucks/etc. hauling millions of bottles around the world, it will take more energy to move glass bottles. Glass is also fragile so it’s possible there is more shipping material or more random losses affecting cost. So then the problem is not just how to replace plastic bottles with glass but how to offset the added environmental cost of transporting glass.
There are a number of long-term costs not captured in these business decisions:
- The energy cost of recycling a PET bottle is much greater than producing a brand new one from crude oil. This creates the wrong kind of incentives for recycling
- Plastic degrades everytime it is recycled. Google plastic "downcycling". In an ideal circular economy old plastics would still have to be replaced with "new" crude oil plastic with additional energy and emissions costs.
- The cost of plastic collection and _sorting_ (which manufacturers aren't paying for)
- The environmental and disposal costs of unrecycled plastic, a PET bottle will take at least 450 years to fully decompose. 
- The Health costs of the calamity of micro-plastics contaminating our food supply and ground water. Simply google "plastic endocrine disruptors".
I did, and found that the 1996 paper that helped launch the movement against endocrine disruptors, was retracted in 2001 because the data was made up.
(I'm not making any claim here about whether endocrine disruptors in our environment are a problem or not. Maybe they are. But I don't like to be told "just Google X" because that can be used to support any nonsense nowadays. Just give me a good reference and I'll try to figure out whether it's credible.)
Evidence on the health effects of Bisphenol and Pthalates (commonly used chemicals in plastics):
- Influence in hormone dependent types of cancer https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31471387/
- Influence in Cardiovascular disease
- Influence in Female and male fertility
- Cofactor in Diabetes:
If it's a 1:1 transition from plastic bottle to glass bottle, it would be 35 billion bottles annually, in the US alone.
The issue is I can't see any of these restrictions accurately reflecting cost. If they could these things would not be a concern.
Any of these suggestions that apply only within a national market are also ineffective, as by their very nature they are going to reduce economic activity in that nation... which will be picked up by someone else who doesn't care. The laws need to take this into account.
The post above you didn't suggest using higher impact materials like brass and aluminum, they suggested making manufacturers pay for externalities which would be the case for plastics or metals.
Do you remember how telephone fraud with blue boxes was prosecuted? The stolen time was judged at full sale value of the minutes. But this doesn't make any sense, as if the call could not be placed for free it would not have happened, and if no one else was in line to place a call there was not lost revenue.
It seems like people are trying to do this with e.g. unrecycled plastics. Recycling is expensive likely because it is not economically productive, not because people are freeloading. The bar for showing otherwise should be very high.
This is true, but it (mostly) not an externalized cost. By forcing environmental costs to be internalized by industry, the market should guide industry away from damaging the environment. Of course that would require honest, complete, and well enforced regulation.
This is unfortunate because I don’t think most people are taking their glass to the supermarket to be recycled and instead a highly recyclable good is ending up in a plastic garbage bag at the landfill.
I haven't used a bottle of any sort for water for at least ten years. Not everyone has access to safe water, but billions do and billions more would if by not thinking we can fall back on bottles and therefore maintained cleaner water supplies.
We don't need alternatives for many things. Paper or plastic? Neither. I've shopped with the same bag since the 90s. Most beverages are marketing gimmicks we'd be happier, safer, and less polluting without -- same with most packaged food, children's toys, fast fashion, and so on.
Our sense of entitlement and disconnect with healthy living, nature, and how we used to live is killing us.
The solution is called a water fountain and they should all be free.
Germany already has deposits on things like soda cans, plastic bottles, and beer bottles. It works and isn't crippling the economy. Also the likes of Coca Cola are operating in Germany and turning a profit despite this. They face similar rules elsewhere in Europe. This is already part of their business today. A lot of the plastic bottles are ending up being recycled. Half the success is simply collecting them separately from normal waste so you get all the PET plastics sorted together. That makes that easier. Some of the bottles are actually cleaned and reused.
Simply making recycling a concern for the manufacturer is the key to getting businesses to compete on being more sustainable because it becomes their problem to solve. Single use plastics only make sense when you get to dump them for "free" without regard for cleaning up the mess.
IMHO the main challenges with plastics long term are ensuring the stuff either breaks down when dumped or does not end up in land fills and our oceans. Secondly, we are using oil for producing plastics and could long term be switching to synthesized carbohydrates produced using clean energy. This requires a lot of R&D to happen to scale this and do it more efficiently of course. But it would change things a lot. We'll need stupendous amounts of cheap energy for this. That's actually a good thing when the cheapest form of energy we make is increasingly from renewables. So, the more demand we have on that the faster the demise of dirty energy.
It uses alot of power to smelt originally but it recycles forever with no degradation. Aluminium at least.
Why is soda so special that it deserves special treatment?
How much of those bottles are single-use bottles for water? We can cut that portion entirely. 100%.
Either install filters (ideal) or use reusable 5-gal plastic bottles and water dispensers.
The scale is just so immense.
Coca Cola, for instance, is produced and bottled in at least 68 separate plants in the US alone.
At the risk of sounding like an industry shill: why is it being characterized as an cost externalization by the petrochemical/packaging industries, rather than the consumers? I agree that any pollution generated during extraction and manufacture can be attributed as an externalize of the packaging/petrochemical industry, but why should they be on the hook after it leaves their hands? Consumers are using the said products, reaping the benefits (either in cheaper products or greater convenience), and pay for their disposal via tax dollars or fees. I guess you could argue that companies should be responsible for the entire lifecycle, but then it becomes a slippery slope. Is the automotive industry externalizing the cost of roads? Is the food industry externalizing the cost of sewer systems? Are electronics manufacturers externalizing the cost of electricity?
What are these negative consequences? The only ones I can think of are related to improper disposal (eg. littering), and would be present regardless of whether the material was recyclable or not. ie. if we replaced all the non-recyclable plastic bottles with 100% recyclable aluminum cans, the littering problem would still be there.
Perhaps they pass some of these costs down to consumers which makes them less likely to purchase (and then litter) non-biodegradables. Or they can provide a cheaper good to avoid a carbon tax which encourages consumer to buy that alternative.
Does decomposing plastic emit methane?
I'm not an expert, but I think the problem is that in the US, The industry would never allow that kind of decree to pass, since in this case "The manufacturers and importers of beverages fund return systems through different types of payments."
Plastics are an absolutely incredible technology, to the point of revolutionary. They are used absolutely everywhere, in everything.
Nobody needed to be convinced of the utility of plastics, it's one of the most utilitarian things ever created.
It discusses extensively the knowledge the petro chemical lobby knew about the ability to recycle plastic and how little could really be recycled.
Consumers aren't typically buying plastic packaging. They're buying whatever the plastic packaging contains.
When regular people buy plastic packaging and throw it away, then yes they are culpable (as in plastic bags and wrap for food storage, which I'll admit that I do use on occasion).
The rest of the time, it's not really the consumer's decision.
I'd much rather buy a plastic bottle of water than a heavy glass one.
There shouldn’t even be a market for single-use water (not on the scale it exists in the USA anyway).
Making the containers free will just drive up wastage.
We should be using reusable bottles and filling them on demand at public fountains, not running into the quickie mart and buying Evian 1/2 liter at a time.
The difference between your examples and examples like plastic and the ones above is that yours are a one time cost with little to no negative externalities - hell most of them have positive externalities. I would pay money for a sewer system and electricity (and do!) - whiles the ones like plastic, asbestos and CO2 have no positive externality to anyone, including the people consuming them and stick around for basically ever. We then need to pay to remove them sometime down the line if we want a livable world.
In the examples given I don't disagree there was externalites being produced, I only disagree with the characterization that it was caused by the manufacturers. Taking some examples from wikipedia:
* In the case of Water pollution, I would say the entity causing the externality is the chemical plant doing the polluting, not the chemical plant for the precursor chemicals
* In the case of spam, I would say the spammers are causing the externality, not the authors of SMTP clients
* In the case of noise pollution, I would say the construction workers are causing the externality, not the makers of the jackhammers
>The difference between your examples and examples like plastic and the ones above is that yours are a one time cost with little to no negative externalities - hell most of them have positive externalities.
And what about the road network that auto manufacturers depend upon? Sure, we still might need one even without cars, but would need orders of magnitude less (in terms of area). We, the tax payers and residents are paying for the road network in the form of dollars need to maintain it, and the various quality of life damages that arise from it (noise pollution, air pollution, unwalkable cities, etc.).
 literally the first sentence of my initial comment: "why is it being characterized as an cost externalization by the petrochemical/packaging industries, rather than the consumers"
I suspect there is criticism in two areas, one in that putting the costs on consumers is either unreasonable or impractical. I don't agree it's unreasonable, but concede that it may be politically undesirable. The other is that waste disposal firms are likely to continue to do harm in the form of dumping waste into oceans (or similar approaches), which I see as fair. I'd be in favor of pursuing disincentives to such practices.
A simple example is the current cost of recycling plastic: it's too expensive so it won't happen. Consequently putting these on the sheet as an externalities doesn't make sense Forcing it to happen is probably nonsensical, why not fund research into plastic recycling instead instead of deadening the economy through unintended consequences?
The creation, purchase, and disposal of plastic has consequences for people that are not involved in that chain, and therefore have no ability to be compensated (or in the case where those consequences produce a societal benefit, compensate) in this transaction.
This is a very common market failure. Most "transactions" actually effect everybody. One of the roles of government (and I suspect there are some radical economists that would say the only role of government) is to measure these external costs of transactions, and tax or subsidize the transactions accordingly. Externalities represent an essentially infinite amount of market failure, and the heuristics that are employed for dealing with them are almost necessarily very crude.
In the case of bottles, we are saying "Hey, we estimate the environmental damage of one plastic bottle at %d, and we are charging you that amount to sell one".
 e.g. If I dump 100 PET soda bottles into the ocean how many humans would be inconvenienced, how many fish killed? My napkin math says essentially none of either.
Dumping those plastics in the ocean begins a cycle of creating microplastics. These plastic particles are being incorporated in food chains and the ramifications of this are not understood at this time, and may take some time to figure out.
Ultimately, all utility functions (strategy space to R), when integrated over the rest of time, produce either a finite value, or an infinite value. Trying to figure out which, for a given strategy, is in general undecidable.
Numbers sort of break down at this point. Or at least numbers as linear constructs. Humanity lives in a dynamical system, and as long as that dynamical system is stable enough (eigenvalues all near 1), we know from observation that evolution (in the biological sense) is capable of maintaining the invariants required to sustain human life and civilization. I will call this the flight envelope of life on earth.
This is an extraordinary gift. If I can prove that Humanity's strategy preserves these invariants, I can count on evolution to extend our presence more or less indefinitely, at least up to the point where the sun runs out of hydrogen or we are struck by some very large celestial object.
The squandering of this gift, by failing to maintain these invariants, has a literally incalculable cost. If we voluntarily exit the flight envelope of life, it is impossible to tell what will happen as a result, but it won't be as good as whatever we can get by staying in it. So my back of the napkin math says that the correct price to place on disposal of plastic into the ocean is "don't". There is no world in which the marginal utility of 50 trillion plastic bottles is greater than staying in the flight envelope.
And you didn't even give a reason that plastic would kick us out of the flight envelope if we ignore those flaws in the argument.
So your very last line is true but you have done basically nothing to demonstrate that we have to choose between the two.
So instead we should look at actual harm and/or cleanup cost.
Looking at what it would cost to clean up doesn't have to mean actually cleaning. But let's remove that part, because the important part is to look at actual harm.
Especially because if you can't tell me the relationship between plastic levels and harm, and you can't tell me how much is too much, what if I decide we've already broken the invariant and there's no point in reducing any more?
I only suggested looking at cleanup cost to get a better understanding of how to handle the harm. Not because we have a magic list of which things must be cleaned up and which things don't need to be.
Because you'd need such a magic list. Otherwise how do we know that we don't need to blow up all our houses because they're violating an invariant, or something similarly crippling? What if Earth can only safely supply 10 million humans in the long term, for a fun possible invariant.
You wanted a definition of externality, I gave it to you. There's a function that gives you the upper bound on the cost of an externality, which for lack of a better term, we can call the clean up function. This is the cost of returning the system to its original state.
You don't need a magic list, you need a way of demonstrating that certain actions are within the flight envelope of the environment, ie, there is some corrective force within the environment that maintains the invariant for you, and a policy of denying all actions that do not come with such a demonstration. The list can expand as scientific understanding expands, and we are allowed some leeway by the intrinsic stability of the system. If evolution could not absorb some unexpected perturbations, we wouldn't exist in the first place, but we should treat this as a finite resource, for which we do not have an amount.
Evidence that we don't do this at all is just you being in denial about the terribleness of the human strategy.
Imagine, for metaphor, that you are in some (solar powered) alien plane, and the pilot dies. You go into the cockpit, knowing that you just have to keep the plane flying. You make a mental note that all of the instruments on the panel are fixed, and the position of all of the controls. You decide that you want to fly faster so you fiddle around with the contrls until you can tell that the landscape is going underneath you faster than it was before. You note that some instrument on the panel is increasing. Do you A) ignore it, or B) return the controls to their original state?
Your example is disingenuous because a cockpit instrument by definition monitors something you want to pay attention to. We can measure and record many things, most of which are probably irrelevant to many problems and their solutions.
I don't see where consumers are on the hook? We were told that plastic was better (e.g. the switch from paper bags to plastic).
As a comparison to electronics industry in many jurisdictions there are recycling fees paid at the time of purchase. Those fees are paid to recyclers to tear down equipment into raw materials to be re-used. The electronics industry didn't mislead anyway suggesting recycling could pay for itself nor add recycling symbols to suggest you could drop a TV in your blue recycle bin.
No, that's just fraud. Externality has a very specific meaning: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Externality. In this case a third party isn't bearing the cost. It's still the consumer (via taxes or garbage disposal fees).
>As a comparison to electronics industry in many jurisdictions there are recycling fees paid at the time of purchase.
That's simply a different way of raising funds for waste disposal. I suspect it's not used for other forms of packaging because they don't require special handling, and therefore the cost is so marginal that it's not worth collecting.
Why is that bad? It's not like we're running out of landfill space (at least in the US), and it's not like plastic in a landfill leeches chemicals into the drinking water or something.
> and which do not biodegrade
I don't think anyone was fooled into thinking that plastics were biodegradable.
Because it's not all going into landfills, it's ending up as litter and giant floating pallets of plastic in the middle of the ocean.
>I don't think anyone was fooled into thinking that plastics were biodegradable.
No, but metal, glass, and paper are all either recyclable or biodegradable or both.
The best option by far is to not consume things. Don't buy stuff. That's working out really well for us, isn't it?
Next best in many places is single use followed by incineration for district heating and electricity.
Third, in many places, is single use with well managed collection and disposal to a well managed landfill.
When you dig into the numbers, things like reusable glass containers, cotton bags, and so on are harmful virtue signaling. Karens get to shame other people who harming the world less than the Karens are by a long way.
I'll have to dig back through my paper notebooks going back over about 20 years. (My ex-wife was a virtue signaler, and I had started to be sceptical. I used a university library, but I don't live near a university any more.)
Probably there's a lot better research to be had now, refined! Updated! With 20% lower error bounds!
But I doubt very much the conclusions have changed, especially given the world's dependence on Chinese manufacturing and China's dependence on coal.
This is just naive and irrational.
What if I really need a single use plastic thingy because for example, it is a wire buckle, and making it multi-use would make it effectively expensive single-use wire buckle?
Banning ALL is rarely a good solution.
Just tax it and that's it. And it doesn't matter, if it's single use or multiple use, because eventually all of them end up in the garbage.
This is true up the entire supply chain. The same machines that produce barrier plastics for first responders also produce material for plastic wrap for retail packaging.
Sure, you could hypothetically ban all the "frivolous" applications, but I don't think people fully understand how the R&D for silly things subsidizes, and cross pollinates life-saving innovations.
The real trade-off isn't plastics or landfills, it is landfills vs. modern oncology.
The coffee cup example is contrived, but let's say every producer of plastic zip ties was required to receive returned plastic zip ties each year, equal to the volume that they sold the previous year?
>The real trade-off isn't plastics or landfills, it is landfills vs. modern oncology.
That is a false dilemma. You might as well start adding uranium to baby powder because "Uranium Co spends so much money on cancer research the real trade off isn't uranium baby powder or regular baby powder, it's uranium baby powder or oncology".
I hope we as Humans are better than this.
Ignoring the unnecessary ad hominem, this is as irrational, as baning leaded fuel or asbestos. Plastic will be the defining geological remainder of our human epoch. We are physically destroying the planet and our own healthy for the sake of wire buckles. 
You claim this to be naive, yet this is the very proposal currently approved by 560 members of the EU parliament, in the new European Union Single-Use Plastics Directive 2019/904  
Arguably the original proposal was ridiculously watered down so that only a short list of single-use plastic products are banned (likely due to industry lobbying).
However, make no mistake, a ban is coming it is not a question of if but of when. The quicker the Coca-Cola's and Pepsico's and Nestlé's of the world wake up to this, the less they will hurt their bottom line with the overdue reckoning of consumer backlash and health related class suits.
It's apples to oranges. Nobody really needs leaded fuel or asbestos.
But single-use plastics has a lot of reasonable applications, like ones I gave above: multi-use things which are effectively single-use.
> You claim this to be naive, yet this is the very proposal currently approved by 560 members of the EU parliament, in the new European Union Single-Use Plastics Directive 2019/904
If MP were really smart people, we would already colonized Mars and other planets. They are just regular dudes who are pushed by voters, by industry and so on.
> However, make no mistake, a ban is coming it is not a question of if but of when
I'm certain of that. And that ban will do more harm then good. Like for example, people might start bying expensive multi-use things for single-use applications.
Direct bans for things so heavily used are going to have extreme unintended consequences. Are we willing to put that much immediate demand on things like tin and aluminum (cans, food cases, etc) that will drive up energy consumption and CO2 emissions? It's not clear that's a win for the environment.
A tax would be much more straightforward.
Taxing plastic bags while grocery shopping just makes your groceries a tiny bit more expensive. If you ban plastic shopping bags altogether they disappear overnight.
update: I agree that trying to define "single-use" is difficult, instead I think governments should just choose an item that has good alternatives and ban them.
I read a study that suggested the total plastic usage has gone down, but not by as much as you would think.
I challenge that assumption.
Glass is much heavier and bulkier (so a truck will carry less product, and burn more fuel and cause more road wear to do so), and more product will be lost to spoilage.
The same sorts of issues apply to coated paper or card containers.
If you implemented this one, all of your other goals would naturally fall out of the increased cost of plastic.
Where you give the free market conditions where it ends up doing the things you were thinking of 'requiring' it to do, you'll end up with a much more effective solution, because no set of laws or requirements is ever as comprehensive as the effect of millions of people in millions of roles trying to save a few bucks...
There are a zillion unforeseen externalizations in the mandates your listing - this is why centralization usually doesn't work very well.
Plastic is one of many materials that go in landfills, and we don't turn it into Co2 either so I'm not sure how we can go after that 'evil industry' and not others?
Probably a better solution would be to figure out how we can make use of that material afterwards - or - finding rational ways to dispose of it relatively cleanly.
Most yogurt is in plastic. Putting that in ceramic or glass seems out or similar reasons.
All bread products are wrapped in plastic. There used to open bins in the "bakery" area but because of covid-19 every pastry, bagel, croissant, etc is not individually wrapped in plastic. All chips and crackers are in plastic. I'm not 100% sure they can be wrapped in paper given how humid it is. Maybe wax paper?
Milk is almost universally in cardboard though 80-90% have a plastic cap. I'm not sure that the cardboard isn't plastic coated though. It certainly feels like it is but maybe that's some kind of wax?
All meat is in styrofoam trays (plastic) wrapped in plastic. I don't know if they could wrap it in anything else as people want to see it before buying (paper is opaque) and having a butcher counter would be much slower having to wait in line for the butcher.
All cheese products are in plastic. Same as the butcher, I can imagine a cheese counter where they wrap the cheese in paper but no one wants to wait in line and plastic wrapped cheese lets me see the cheese.
Japanese pumpkin is often sold in quarters because a single pumpkin is too much for one. Those are wrapped in plastic. Not sure what else you could wrap them in and leave them on the counter for a day. I suppose you could require to people to buy whole pumpkins.
All tofu is sold in plastic.
I'm also not sure what to do for garbage. Japan, or at least my area, requires garbage to be put in vinyl bags. It arguably helps putting out a bunch of food stuffs to not just be open and lure for rats and bugs so I'm not sure what we could switch to there.
Well, there is definitely lots of room for improvement. At least in July they finally made stores require to charge for plastic bags and ask if you want one (not just auto charge you). I'm not sure how affective it is but it did manage to change my behavior. I carry a reusable bag now.
That state has had a ban on plastic bags since 2009, around ten years before some of the more populated eastern parts of Australia.
I've been studying plastic waste for years as a member of the Surfrider Foundation, and right now I'm in a BBA program called Business and Sustainability, and my colleagues are having a really hard time getting past the idea that recycling+electric cars=sustainable.
Absolutely nailed it here.
The rest of your comment is not going to happen easily though...
We are past and overdue on too many milestones in this planetary anthropogenic destruction.
The future of humanity cannot afford anything less than solving this overnight.
Some people will sit in Davos and ponder but the longer we waste time the longer we risk collapsing the world order that allows them to sit at Davos and ponder.
And fees so assessed should actually pay for disposal. Of everything. Discourage dumping and garbage burning by making waste collection "free" (in reality paid in advance at time of purchase).
Can you link to a source for that claim?
You know how they say the "cloud" is just some other guy's computer? Recycling can often be some other guy's landfill.
I don’t shop at a grocery store, how will I return my plastic, glass or metal containers?
Is plastic so bad if it gets reused?
If we don’t make plastic what happens to that portion of the petrochemical supply chain? Are there other constructive uses or does it just get dumped into a river somewhere?
... And a Lion's share of the microplastic calamity contaminating our oceans, our ground water and our food supply.
Not everything is about CO2 emissions. With a single business decision, Humans have managed to contaminate the whole water cycle with micro-plastics all the way up to alpine glaciers. 
Single-use plastic is outstandingly great for seller's short-term direct costs, bad for almost everything else.
In addition, regulating plastic means that for multi-national corporations the path of least resistance is to operate under the most restrictive standard instead of maintaining multiple packaging solutions.
I fully accept that. However I cannot accept that we leave the current status quo as is. We are very literally killing ourselves.
If you have other ideas or better approaches please share them so that they can be discussed.
"Single-use" plastic is often used for a long time, longer than "eco" alternatives like paper bags that simply don't do the job well enough to be reused.
Glass and paper are horrible alternatives (for the environment) if not recycled properly (and they aren't, like plastic).
Removing all microplastics from nature will be a lot harder.
The least you can do is use a refillable container.
10+ years ago Google switched from bottle water to giving everyone a container. And that was a great move. Yet people complained, and a few years later we were back to bottled water.
What a waste.
Soda, juice, etc. were sold in bottles which normalized it.
Then people wanted to be healthier and so putting water in a bottle at events/meetings felt like providing a healthy choice to people, directly next to the unhealthy choices. Plus the water in small bottles could be kept cold in ice more easily. Also sparkling water already needed to be in bottles, so it seems even more natural to have still water next to it in the same way too.
People in some parts of the country also realized the bottled water tasted better than their local highly chlorinated tap water. (Other parts of the country there's no difference.)
The industry didn't even have to convince anyone. It's genuinely consumer-led.
And refillable containers have their own disadvantages. It's not always easy to lug one around the office as you juggle your laptop and documents and phone, or you forget it in another conference room, etc. It's easy to keep in a backpack, but people aren't usually lugging their backpack to every meeting or to the cafeteria.
I'm not defending single-use water bottles... but sometimes I do wonder if all the materials+energy spent on refillable bottles has actually turned into a huge net loss, as so many of them go unused, lost or thrown out long before they'd achieve a net positive.
And yet they spent millions doing just that when research showed that people had no interest in buying it:
But of course to ban sugary drinks would cut into the realm of personal choice right? After all people may choose to want a sugary beverage. So no one argues that case.
Still it's weird to draw the line at bottled water and not further along. I used to live near a council area (Manly City Council) that banned bottled water. It meant you could only buy sugary drinks at the local corner store. Go to the beach and forget your water bottle? You better like Coca-Cola because that's all they'll sell you!
I'm not opposed to encouraging people to use a re-usable container. But i am opposed to a ban on something that's far better than the alternatives that remain unbanned.
Your comment reveals your age. The parent and myself are old enough to remember a time when you could go to numerous public places and drink from a water fountain.
It also showcases just how far we've fallen as a society and have settled to create profit seeking solutions at the expense of what is best for society.
> ban sugary drinks would cut into the realm of personal choice right?
if you're talking about environmental effects then its no longer a personal choice issue.
Obviously we should be discouraging the use of soda and alcohol and such.
For example, in London it's "safe" to drink tap water, it does not contain toxic checmicals of bacteria, but it is calcium rich, and drinking it constantly may be harmful for kidneys.
This can only be solved by shifting from the "wish upon a star that all consumers will somehow solve the problem themselves" strategy to putting the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the people profiting from putting municipal water in single-use plastic bottles.
Several years ago, I paid a couple hundred bucks to get my municipal water (large U.S. city) tested in a lab.
After seeing the results, I almost never drink tap water, and I buy a gallon of spring water (in clear plastic) on most days for my own use.
I think many workplaces also have filtered water, including every place of worked at (although not everyone uses it).
The "water cooler" was a really good solution!
Specifically it does very little for bacteria, viruses, and other organic compounds.
Anyway, I've been drinking filtered tap for 15+ years all over the United States -- never had a problem and tastes great.
TV won't give you any useful information.
Many reasons. Mostly distrust on how potable the water actually is (events like Flint didn't help). Some locations have water that tastes bad - even if it should be otherwise healthy.
What I don't understand is how small bottles became a thing. Sure, if you are out and about it might be convenient to carry some, as they are sealed containers. But some people buy them for normal consumption.
At least use the big bottles that are supposed to be used with watercoolers. Those are actually reused.
First of all, it's mostly based on a paper "published Wednesday in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances". Unfortunately, there is no link to the article. The exact title is not even given. The date is unclear since the magazine published this in 2017 and updated some (undetermined) content in 2018. Most links are dead (home page of the lead author, web site of an association about statistics).
The basis is scientific, but this National Geographic article is not. For instance, the title is misleading: "91% of plastic isn't recycled" means "an estimated 91% of all the plastic ever produced has not been recycled as of today (2017)". Another dubious sentence is: "79 percent is accumulating in landfills or sloughing off in the natural environment as litter." Since 12% were incinerated and 9% recycled, it assumes that the rest (100-12-9) is just garbage. I suppose the reality is that a large proportion of the plastics produced is still used.
They mention that 40% of plastics are for packaging. According to PlasticsEurope, 20% for construction, 10% for vehicles. People often focus on packaging and forget the variety of plastics and their usages.
What surprised me was that the USA were so bad at recycling (9%) while Europe and Asia were far better (30% and 25%). I had read that some American soda producers were mostly using recycled PET, so I wondered if there was a contradiction. I've just read more about it, and these companies recycle in many countries but not much in the USA because there is no large-scale infrastructure to do so. The lack of national leadership means it can only exist locally, with varying quality and lack of long term committing. Even when the recycling exists, consumers in the USA do not behave as well as they do in Netherland, so the recycled PET is more costly with a lower quality.
No, you can thank the coca cola corporation for that. They have lobbied millions, along with the groceries associations to prevent things like bottle deposits to make recycling more common. Google it, plenty of information out there on the topic.
It seems like the only way to make recycling truly effective at a large scale is to make it economically viable, either through the creating of new recycling techniques that make using recycled materials the cheapest option, or through subsidies to artificially produce the same effect.
I think it's easier and less corruptible to have the goal be to reduce the consumption causing the waste and attack the problem at the root. I.e. a tax increasing the cost of everything to reflect the cost of properly disposing it.
Recycling doesn't undo the environmental damage, and in many cases it takes huge amounts of energy to recycle causing even more damage.
They've been using the ground glass as aggregate in roads..
You are 100% correct in that there needs to be economic incentive.
At some point in the future landfills will be on par with gold mines, and only then will we see how truly wasteful we have been.
Basically the lack of sensible policy.
Big fan of both Penn and Teller but libertarian bullshit is still bullshit and they proved that even smart people fall for it if they hang in the wrong circles too much.
"Every tingly spidey sense, every sniff, every whiff, smells like global warming—which they now call climate change, in case they want to go the other way and say it's colder—but it just reeks of fuckin' bullshit to me. And yet, in good conscience, we can't really come out and say it's bullshit, because there isn't enough information to really refute it completely. And there is some information that it might be real.
So—the high-dea is not to go with your gut, the idea is to go with your head, and our heads can't say that global warming is complete and utter bullshit. So we're doing—again, this is like our third show that's kind of sort of on global warming—we're kind of picking out one area that we're sure is bullshit, and that is the carbon credits, the spending money so that your guilt goes away. Buying a forgiveness."
I see proper intellectual restraint about the science, and criticism of one particular policy proposal.
Just replace climate change with another established scientific fact that you actually agree with, like the earth being a globe perhaps, and you'll see what you sound like to people outside your bubble.
> "Every tingly spidey sense, every sniff, every whiff, smells like global earth—which they now call non-flat earth, in case they want to go the other way and say it's a pyramid or banana-shape—but it just reeks of fuckin' bullshit to me.
> And yet, in good conscience, we can't really come out and say it's bullshit, because there isn't enough information to really refute it completely. And there is some information that it might be real.
> So—the high-dea is not to go with your gut, the idea is to go with your head, and our heads can't say that the spherical earth is complete and utter bullshit. So we're doing—again, this is like our third show that's kind of sort of on global shape—we're kind of picking out one area that we're sure is bullshit, and that is the funding for satellites, which would only make sense if the earth was a globe. What a waste of money. Millions down the drain!
Says a lot about Libertarian ideas that the one thing they attack is using market mechanisms to address the problem. Clearly principles get trumped by fossil fuel funding.
The video doesn't actually say what Penn's objections to carbon credits are. Googling a bit, Wiki's episode summary for "Being Green" says: "Attacks the concept of carbon credits as a method of profiting off guilt, and compares them to indulgences"—well, is he wrong? I also see comments indicating that he says Al Gore buys carbon credits from a company he owns, which sounds at least like an "appearance of impropriety" which Gore maybe should have avoided.
> Clearly principles get trumped by fossil fuel funding.
Do you really think Penn got funding from fossil fuel companies and ... The steelman is that fossil fuel companies have paid unscrupulous individuals in think tanks that libertarians subscribe to, to write mendacious reports that libertarians believe. That's possible. I wonder if any other group has been fooled by mendacious reports.
I wonder what the best strategy is for defeating mendacious reports in general. Perhaps encouraging everyone engaged in a scientific debate to be as scrupulously honest and precise as they can be—and to recognize dishonest tactics. A failure mode in that is seeing dishonest tactics where none exist, so perhaps one can (encourage everyone to) adopt practices that make it easier for everyone to tell the difference. Things like publishing all raw data, preregistering experiments, and offering rewards for neutral parties to reproduce an experiment, seem helpful.
Given the current picture, perhaps most interesting in retrospect is this 1996 article (which apparently set a record for hate mail) and its follow-up from 2015:
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9757853 Recycling is Garbage (1996) (55 comments) - https://archive.is/JKG7y
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10327585 The Reign of Recycling (34 comments) - https://archive.is/o8LBm
2020 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24454067 Oil Companies Touted Recycling to Sell More Plastic (232 comments)
2020 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24441979 How Big Oil Misled the Public into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled (310 comments)
2020 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24440516 Pringles tube tries to wake from 'recycling nightmare' (394 comments)
2020 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23040674 Plastics pile up as coronavirus hits Asia recyclers (19 comments)
2020 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22927072 'Horrible hybrids': the plastic products that give recyclers nightmares (40 comments)
2020 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22741635 Industry spent millions selling recycling, to sell more plastic (105 comments)
2020 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22467015 Coke and Pepsi are getting sued for lying about recycling (170 comments)
2020 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22318165 Is Recycling a Waste of Time? (94 comments)
2019 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21837414 Recycling Rethink: What to Do with Trash Now China Won’t Take It (152 comments)
2019 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21742196 The Great Recycling Con [video] (77 comments)
2019 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21303618 How Coca-Cola Undermines Plastic Recycling Efforts (132 comments)
2019 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21297639 All plastic waste could be recycled into new plastic: researchers (150 comments)
2019 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21102560 We asked three companies to recycle plastic and only one did (64 comments)
2019 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21043986 Exposing the Myth of Plastic Recycling (17 comments)
2019 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20762789 Plastics: What's Recyclable, What Becomes Trash and Why (215 comments)
2019 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20728911 Smart plastic incineration posited as solution to global recycling crisis (84 comments)
2019 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20726689 'Plastic recycling is a myth': what really happens to your rubbish (63 comments)
2019 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20549804 Americans' plastic recycling is dumped in landfills (282 comments)
2019 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20433851 Landfill is underrated and recycling overrated (336 comments)
2019 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20134641 I work in the environmental movement. I don’t care if you recycle (15 comments)
2019 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19889365 Why Recycling Doesn't Work (216 comments)
2019 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19844551 Reycling Plastic from the Inside Out (46 comments)
2019 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19799348 Bikes, bowling balls, and the balancing act that is modern recycling (2015) (35 comments)
2019 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19728391 Just 10% of U.S. plastic gets recycled. A new kind of plastic could change that (116 comments)
2019 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19483074 America Finally Admits Recycling Doesn’t Work (35 comments)
2019 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19399543 The World's Recycling Is in Chaos. Here's What Has to Happen (25 comments)
2019 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19346342 What Happens Now That China Won't Take U.S. Recycling (219 comments)
2019 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18893252 The Era of Easy Recycling May Be Coming to an End (84 comments)
2018 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17841584 Recycling in the United States is in serious trouble. How does it work? (94 comments)
2018 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17677698 Trash piles up in US as China closes door to recycling (272 comments)
2018 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17495872 Californians love to recycle, but it's no longer doing any good (14 comments)
2018 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17409152 Plastic recycling is a problem consumers can't solve (441 comments)
2018 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16856246 An enzyme that digests plastic could boost recycling (122 comments)
2018 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16174719 Plastics Pile Up as China Refuses to Take the West’s Recycling (71 comments)
2017 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15888827 Recycling Chaos in U.S. As China Bans 'Foreign Waste' (233 comments)
2017 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15528740 China Bans Foreign Waste – What Will Happen to the World's Recycling? (63 comments)
2016 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11083898 Is it time to rethink recycling? (147 comments)
2015 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10327585 The Reign of Recycling (34 comments)
2015 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9757853 Recycling is Garbage (1996) (55 comments)
2014 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7778956 Is Recycling Worth It? (13 comments)
2010 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1186666 Recycling is Bullshit; Make Nov. 15 Zero Waste Day, not America Recycles Day (18 comments)
2009 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=937097 The Recycling Myth (36 comments)
They claimed recycling of plastic loses a large fraction of the input as waste, and recyclables/recycled materials have to be bulkier. They could make a very thin nonrecyclable package that had less plastic than the unrecoverable fraction of a recyclable alternative, and reduce shipping costs/footprint in the process. So sometimes less of a bad thing is better than more of a mediocre thing.
They have since marked that packaging as recyclable, so I don’t know whether they found a workaround or are participating in the recycling mythos now.
As we have regrettably seen with the coronavirus changing the behavior of large populations is incredibly difficult even if there are dire repercussions for failure to change.
The cost of compostable plastic is slightly higher than the usual plastic, so the governments will have to enforce its use, but it will be a small price to pay for removing the externalities of dealing with actual plastic waste.
You get to use the oil from the ground twice: Once as plastic, and again for energy. It's a win/win since you reduce oil you burn and get rid of plastic waste.
I'm not saying we shouldn't do it, but this is not the end game. The end game is either:
~ 100 % reduction in plastic use.
~ 100 % recycled plastic
Those two goals are not mutually exclusive either. Yes, it might cost a lot of energy to recycle plastic. As long as that energy comes from a clean source, it shouldn't matter much.
Obviously, only the first goal reduces the amount of plastic in the ocean, soil, rivers, etc. I am hopeful that bacteria will develop that can ingest plastic, which would both get us rid of the waste, and limit plastic usefulness, but it can't really be counted on in the short term. And plastic waste has a mostly local, short-term effect. Carbon dioxide has a long-term, global effect. So I'd prefer it to be buried until it can be recycled.
Once there is no oil burned, and it's all used for plastic, then it makes sense to implement your plan. But not until then.
Furthermore, compostable plastics will solve the biggest problem of plastic pollution -- the a-hole that just tosses plastic garbage in the ground because he/she doesn't give a damn. Compostable plastics compost much faster in proper municipal/industrial composting facilities, so it is still important to throw the stuff away in compost bins and to have regular pickup service, but they will compost in the environment too. Thus, there is some defense against the morons that just litter.
In other words, compostable plastics fail better than all the other choices.
Only if you don't use enough oxygen. Except for PVC plastic does not have any bad atoms in it, if fully burned the exhaust is completely safe (it's just water and CO2).
A proper, hot, incinerator will burn plastic very safely.
While individuals plastic pollution is not the biggest emitter of plastic here in the world, we can always take small steps towards making sure we don't throw as much plastic as we currently do.
How can I meet people around me who have already setup a collection point, a community point, or a machine shop?
Do you have an onboarding guide for beginners who are looking for low-effort ways to explore what you are doing?
However, here are some resources for getting started locally:
- Map of all the workshops registered on PP - https://community.preciousplastic.com/map
- Events that are being organized all around the world - https://community.preciousplastic.com/events
- Onboarding guide, read from top to bottom, includes some videos as well, great for getting started - https://community.preciousplastic.com/academy/intro
- And the most helpful, PPs Discord community, tons of channels and even more people, usually very responsive and very diverse - https://discordapp.com/invite/cGZ5hKP
But in general, anything you've seen in the real world would be possible to recreate with your own moulds, the limit is your imagination!
While there are some uses for recycled plastics, I fear that we'll likely continue to see a lot of single-use plastics until some economic force makes plastic unprofitable. Maybe public anger drives new regulation, maybe we use up all the oil, maybe we ween off of oil and it's too expensive to pump oil just to make plastics. In any case, I think we need to embrace some short and medium term solutions to mitigate environmental damage from single-use plastic.
Your instinct is right that recycling does not help much. It is more of a ritual to allow people to consume guilt free than an effective way toward a less polluted world.
I do think you raise a great point that it's a little silly to put this on the shoulders of individual consumers, and let the corporations off the hook. This is a problem that does need to be addressed with policy, and companies shouldn't be allowed to continue polluting this planet with no consequences. I don't know how what the solution should look like, but this is a specific example of where free markets can fail us - the costs of producing all this unnecessary packaging was externalized starting 60 years ago, and is now starting to catch up with us. Because the delay between market forces and outcomes can be a century, we need to be more careful about just letting things run wild.
Or you give people an excuse to consume more because now they can feel good about their consumption. Recycling does not solve any problems, as the revelations of the past decade have shown. Reducing consumption is the only solution, and recycling was the excuse sold to the public to keep the consumption music going.
I would say that paper recycling has been working, it's plastic recycling that isn't currently working. I would also say that it's not that plastic recycling can't work, it's just that it hasn't been working.
I am curious why it's not working. Would mandatory recycling help? Is it the recycling services cheating, taking money to recycle but throwing it away instead? Is the issue public mistrust of municipal water? I do suspect there are ways to make a much bigger dent than we have by better understanding what's happening.
Anyway, all that said, I tend to agree with you that recycling is being used ironically as a way to continue consumption and avoid responsibility rather than start the real work of reducing plastic production.
Yeah I don't know. I'm a little torn, I don't want to give up all hope on plastic recycling, but I think you're right, we probably need amputation more than stitches.
Problem number one is expecting people to put forth the time and effort into sorting all of their recyclables. The whole situation is so complicated and rules so difficult to enforce, I don't see how it can be considered a feasible solution.
The vastly easier, far more high impact solution is to reduce consumption.
I've personally watched people ignore recycling signs on purpose, or get flustered by multiple bins because they've never seen more than one, but ultimately I just don't buy the argument that this takes extra time or effort, I'm convinced that is a mental block or resistance to change and not a real physical problem. It's like saying I can't be bothered to figure out where my dirty dishes go, and I can't understand the difference between the trash bin and dishwasher and cupboards, so I'm going to throw everything away. My neighbors are perfectly fine with putting yard waste in a separate bin, zero people screw that up.
If sorting is the biggest impediment to recycling, then I think that we have hope of fixing recycling and maybe reducing consumption at the same time. Sorting is the easiest problem to fix of all. It'll be easier to get people to understand sorting than it will be to get people to understand that municipal water is cleaner, cheaper and easier than their favorite bottled water brand.
I'm with you about reducing consumption being the best option. I'm not sure about easy, but no question it'll be the highest impact.
This site has some good links:
> recent Greenpeace report found that some PET (#1) and HDPE (#2) plastic bottles are the only types of plastic that are truly recyclable in the U.S. today; and yet only 29 percent of PET bottles are collected for recycling, and of this, only 21 percent of the bottles are actually made into recycled materials due to contamination.
>China used to accept plastics #3 through #7, which were mostly burned for fuel. Today #3 – #7 plastics may be collected in the U.S., but they are not actually recycled; they usually end up incinerated, buried in landfills or exported. In fact Greenpeace is asking companies such as Nestle, Walmart, Proctor & Gamble and Unilever that label their products made with #3 -#7 plastics as "recyclable" to stop or it will file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission for mislabeling.
On my street, people put out 2 bins, one for recycling, and one for non recyclable trash. We put all our recycling in one bin, paper, plastic, metal, etc, and everything else in the trash that you don't think is recyclable. And no one is checking which number plastic is placed in the bin. I assume it all goes to landfill.
> Reducing consumption is the only solution
Reducing waste is the important part, which may or may not involve reducing consumption.
Better waste management is also an alternative solution.
And consumption of everything increases consumption of fossil fuels since basically everything requires energy to move mass from one place to another.
Usually just buying less helps a lot.
I'm not saying that you shouldn't try to reduce the amount of plastic you use. But the end consumer wasn't responsible for the huge rise of plastic products, and there's only so much they can do to fix it.
I was checking for details a few days ago, they announce on their website 53% of their input recycled, and 47% used for “energy recovery” (which is newspeak to say they burn it for the cement and steel industry).
I was surprised by the fact that they burn so much but 47% is apparently considered very good.
Regarding the German system, they could really improve the percentage of recycled plastic trash by using more explicit bins, you currently have one single yellow bin for anything recyclable instead of one for PET, one or aluminum, etc. Because of this it is always a bit difficult to know what is supposed to go or not in the bin, and people just put everything they think is plastic.
Of course it makes sense. Plastic is cheap, light, watertight, strong, and mallable.
It's kind of a miracle material, except that it's too stable. If we had a version that decomposed in a year, it would be awesome.
I've successfully run "compostable" plastic through the dishwasher several times and haven't seen any sign of decay. The county I live in offers composting service and begs people to please not put "compostable" plastic in it.
https://quantafuel.com/ | https://newsweb.oslobors.no/message/513575
80% (by weight) recovery into high quality liquids (eg.: nafta). They claim the majority of the energy used by the process comes from the remaining 20%.
The acceptable input is mostly PP and PE, the two most commonly used plastics (at least for packaging). A special catalysator is used to remove additives like chlorine.
I started looking up stuff like this: https://leapsmag.com/plastic-eating-mushrooms-let-you-have-y...
I mean, if the corporate community won't do what they say, then I'm going to look for a practical way to do this locally, onsite.
Waste handling should focus on making plastics cleanly combustible and keeping problematic materials (like, toxic heavy metals) from being mixed with them in the waste stream.
For example, I buy these "Green Toys" products that are supposedly made from recycled plastic and I love it. I have no idea why this recycled plastic is not used in other kid's toys, kitchenware, or random things like garden tools. This recycled plastic is tough, it doesn't decay in the sun like regular plastic. I would pay more for it!
I have actually tried looking for more items made from recycled plastic and it just doesn't exist.
My conclusion is that people don't like the way it looks, because it's very rough and the color is different, so there is no market for it. Most people probably prefer to buy the cheaper, "nicer" looking plastic.
This comment is baffling. In the beginning you think it's an ideological issue. Later on you acknowledge that cost might be an issue, but then you move to goal posts from "plastic is not viable" to "we can't properly recycle plastic". Cost is absolutely the main issue here, not that it's "not possible". Even if recycled plastic is substandard compared to virgin plastic, most consumers can be convinced of otherwise if it's sufficiently cheap enough.
However, regarding your comment
> In the beginning you think it's an ideological issue. Later on you acknowledge that cost might be an issue
I don't see these as contradictory. Ideology affects what people are willing to spend. As someone who cares about the environment I don't mind spending more on recycled plastic to reduce waste. Most of my peers would not spend a cent more if they don't have to.
I disagree with this characterization. Photovoltaic technology in the 70s were insanely expensive and clearly not economical compared to the alternatives. There were some environmental enthusiasts who would use it despite the economic issues, but I wouldn't characterize the lack of adoption in photovoltaic technology as being an "ideological problem"
If you want to recapture plastic and recycle. You’d need to get plastic, separate it, reprocess (more expensive in most cases), then you could mold again (often at a slight loss of input, I.e. there will be waste).
This makes recycling plastic (today) multiple times more expensive to produce the same good. No one would want to spend double the current price on a soda.
It's a lie from the plastics industry. If they increase their costs in order to cover recycling, plastic is no longer viable as a solution for many things it's used for. We're talking about a huge industry, one which is very closely connected to another one resisting change successfully for over half a century: fossil fuels.
As dang put it: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24485399 :-))
Hopefully with better processes and technical innovations that will change soon.
The result is an endless stream of trash in the recycling stream which makes the actual recyclables worthless.
It is deeply ironic that many people who advocate for better plastic consumption, probably own yoga pants, which are made of plastic. Kind of off topic, but, my point is it is more than just Coca-Cola driving the plastics industry.
My gut is that it would focus on plastic identification automation, but not positive.
Let's chat again when you've executed and launched five unique revolutionary companies.