The Week in Plastic: September 14

Legislative Updates: New Single-Use Plastic Bans in Cincinnati, Tampa, and Australia

In Cincinnati, Ohio, the city council voted this week to enact a new ban on single-use plastic bags, to go into effect January 1st, 2021. Like many such bans under consideration this year, the new law contains an exception allowing it to be paused in emergency situations, such as the current pandemic. Councilman Wendell Young agrees that a bag ban is not enough to solve the plastic waste crisis, but sees this small step as a mobilizing force: "plastic bags won’t cure the problem… but it makes people think, what else?"

Meanwhile, Tampa Florida passed a new regulation restricting the use of select single-use plastics and polystyrene products on city property. The resolution doesn't have a lot of teeth, as it does not actually ban the sale of single-use plastic items or restrict their sale or use on private property -- but still, it is a small step in the right direction.

South Australia took more dramatic steps, passing a long-awaited sweeping ban on select single-use plastics including cutlery, straws and stirrers. Under the new law, it would be illegal to sell or otherwise distribute any of the banned products. Not surprisingly, the ban faces opposition from retailers who feel they are not being given enough time to react to what they perceive as onerous regulations. The new law is expected to come into effect sometime in 2021, although a specific date for enactment has not been set.

New single-use plastic bans will come into effect by 2021 in Florida, Ohio, and Australia.

Science News:

  • A new article published in Nature Scientific Reports estimates that the developing island nation of Aldabra is littered with 513 metric tonnes of plastic waste. Calculating that it would cost a whopping $4.5 million dollars to clean up this amount of waste, the researchers suggest that international assistance is needed in this and similar developing island nation waste crises cases around the world.

  • A letter published in the world-leading journal Science describes an increase in plastic waste during the pandemic, and a rise in improper waste disposal practices, including incineration of potentially hazardous PPE waste.

  • Greepeace released a new report investigating 50+ "advanced" and "chemical" recycling projects promoted by the American Chemistry Council as the rosy future of plastics. But the damning report paints a picture of so-called "advanced" recycling as nothing more than a cynical PR campaign designed to lure governments and consumers into continuing to support the growth of the virgin plastics market.

  • Finally, the European Environment Agency (EEA) released a new report claiming that 1 in every 8 deaths in the EU is linked to pollution (including air and water pollution, noise pollution, and exposure to toxic chemicals).

  • Working together with other G-20 nations, Japan plans to create a comprehensive map of marine #microplastic pollution. Because we can't fight what we don't understand.

Starbucks announced that it will eliminate plastic straws in favor of... disposable plastic sippy cup lids.

Lastly, this week Starbucks announced that it will eliminate plastic straws in favor of... disposable plastic sippy cup lids. In theory, unlike plastic straws, the new lids are able to be recycled and therefore are a step in the right direction. But the lids will be made of polypropylene (PP), which is rarely recycled in the United States. In fact, PP has a <1% post-consumer recycling rate. So, is this change really helping the earth? Or just cleaning up Starbucks' image with a bit of #greenwashing?


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Photo 1 credit: Ocean Blue Project: A Oregon Nonprofit / CC BY-SA

Photo 2 credit: Starbucks


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