Friday, December 3, 2021

Stop the Plastic

I've had quite a string of depressing posts lately. I was scrounging around for something less serious, but nothing came to light. Instead, another depressing thing but not one of the big news topics.

Here are a couple of paragraphs from a news story you may have missed.

A panel created by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine spent a year analyzing the problem of plastic dumping in the oceans. It turned out they didn't just recommend something about the practice of dumping itself, but instead went to the larger systemic problems that underlie the dumping.

The U.S. plastics industry operated 15,688 manufacturing establishments, employed 758,000 people and made shipments worth $334 billion in 2020. Reducing production would mean reversing long-standing growth trends. Plastic manufacturing and use in the U.S. has soared over the decades, and the nations production is expected to increase as oil companies launch enormous "cracker" plants for raw materials.

The panel made six recommendations:

  • Reduce production through mechanisms such as a cap on virgin-plastic production.
  • Substitute materials that can degrade more quickly or can be recycled more easily.
  • Decrease wasted by limiting single-use and particularly toxic products.
  • Improve waste management infrastructure.
  • Capture waste by cleaning up beaches and rivers.
  • Minimize at-sea disposing of any litter including sea vessels or platforms.

So National Academies panel went there: they called for an end to making new plastic from virgin material (oil), and to limit single-use products generally. 

This is the opposite of what the oil companies want, of course, and these actions would end the market the companies have been building with their pretense that plastic is recyclable. They know there's no economy in the recycling market as long as they keep flooding oil into the market.

How much plastic have humans created? This much:

This visualization is by Mark Belan, scientific illustrator, who described it this way: "One grim part to this story (there are many) is that we've now produced double the weight of plastic than the entire Animal Kingdom."

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