To The Daily Sun,
In response to the letter on Thursday, Jan. 9, contemplating the tax on plastic as a way to curb the plastic refuse problem in the world. Yes and we also must create very strict regulations to prevent dumping of plastic into the environment in the future. Creating biodegradable materials from plants instead of fossil fuels would allow the material to breakdown in less time than the materials now which photo-degrade over a thousand years. Microorganisms that eat plastic (Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions, www.earth.stanford.edu>news>do-plastic-straws-really-make-a-difference).
Here are some facts: Seventy-nine percent of all the plastic ever made is either in a landfill or in the ocean (stanford.edu). The oceans contain 150 million metric tons and landfills contain 26.8 million metric tons of plastic waste material. Each year 8 million more metric tons get added to the oceans (www,epa.gov>factsandfiguresaboutmaterials-waste-recycling). One-time-use plastic bags comprise most of the plastic in the ocean, contributing to the one million animal deaths each year from plastic. It costs more to recycle plastic bags per ton than any other type of refuse, $4 each vs. 1 cent (marinedebris.noaa.gov/sites/default/files/publications-files/2018_Plastics-Fact-Sheet.pdf). Only 8.4% of America’s plastic gets recycled.
So much plastic ends up in the ocean that there are five designated areas on the ocean where the plastic builds up, the largest one being between Hawaii and California and is named “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch”. It is estimated to be three times the size of France and twice as large as Texas (Washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2018/06/20/a-giant-wave-of-plastic). Sea animals often swallow plastic bags, mistaking them for jellyfish. Micro-plastics are small particles of plastic that are 5mm or smaller, they often become ingested by lower forms of life on the food chain and ultimately end up in our water supply. The Microbead Free Waters Act signed by President Obama stopped cosmetic companies from further using microbeads in their products because the result was polluted groundwater.
In North America, there are currently 111 plastic cleanup-related projects. There are a number of groups actively working toward cleaning up the world oceans and raising their own funds to do it. One is “The Ocean Clean-Up”, a nonprofit founded in 2013 that raised $31.5 million of their own funding and began cleaning up in 2018.
Plastics manufacturers and chemical companies, along with retailers and waste management companies, are now vowing to stop plastic waste entering the environment. Plastics manufacturers are interested in recovering the waste because some can be turned back into the plastic pellets which are used in the process of manufacturing. Several are concerned about the environmental impact and have allocated $1.5 billion over the next 10 years to cleanup.
Creating a worldwide incentive to keep plastic out of the ocean is going to be difficult, and I’m all for it happening, but what is the answer? Like most other issues, it only receives attention when the situation becomes annoying to a majority of the population. Check your table salt.