Single-use plastics are filling up our landfills, choking our rivers and contaminating our oceans. About 150 million metric tons of plastic are already floating in our oceans, with tons more entering the water each year. Researchers say most of the plastic dumped into the ocean likely ends up on the coasts, rather than on the ocean’s surface or floor.
The Center for International Environmental Law produced an extensive report, “Plastic & Health, The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet.” The report paints a toxic picture: each stage of plastic manufacture creates significant risks to human health. The same features that make plastic a desirable material with many uses – its light weight and durability – also cause it to disperse widely and present a serious threat to human health and the natural systems on which we depend.
Based on such evidence, in 2019, the state of Maine passed a ban on single-use carry-out plastic bags and Styrofoam. Because of COVID-19, the ban, scheduled to go into effect in April 2020, has been on hold until January 2021. What appeared to be a logical pushback against reusables out of an “abundance of caution” was actually a profit-driven attempt by the plastics and fossil fuel industries to link the pandemic to the “belief” that the virus clings to surfaces of reusable grocery bags. Industry publications made repeated claims about the so-called dangers of reusable wraps. The articles were supported by corporate-backed “studies” and were specifically targeted to newspapers in municipalities where plastic bag bans were soon to take effect.
Despite these reported claims against reusable bags for groceries and other items, there are no documented cases linking reusables to the spread of COVID-19, a fact that was verified by Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Still, there are other industrial forces that promote plastic manufacture and use. Owing to the fracking boom, there is an abundance of cheap natural gas, which makes the United States the most attractive place in the world to invest in chemical and plastics manufacturing. And that is what leads to the enormous presence of plastic in our everyday lives.
Nevertheless, many people working together on common goals to protect our land, forests, air, waters and health will make a difference.
Gov. Janet Mills recently introduced the state’s comprehensive and aggressive Climate Action Plan. The Town of York and other towns around the state and country are developing CAPs. Locally, the Waste Reduction and Diversion group (WRAD, part of York Ready for 100%), the Town of York’s Recycling Committee and Creation Care (a committee of First Parish Church) are working together to reduce the amount of plastic packaging that we face on any shopping trip.
If you’re not sure about what is acceptable in our recycling bins, consult the Town of York Solid Waste and Recycling Program Guide, available at Town Hall. Let’s keep in mind that plastic containers that are acceptable for pickup and recycling by Casella (the Town’s contracted waste management company) are bottles, tubs, jugs and lids.
York Ready for 100% is developing new strategies – to be announced soon – to take us toward a healthier, more sustainable community. WRAD is ramping up its online presence to include regular recycling information and composting options. We hope you will tune in.
York Ready for 100% is a grassroots citizens’ organization dedicated to building sustainability and reducing the causes of climate change and its effects on humans and the natural world. For more information see yorkreadyfor100.org or [email protected] 100.org.