What can be said? Zillions of people talk about environmental sustainability, and then do little about it, partly out of ignorance, partly out willful ignorance, partly out of laziness. The planet’s seriously ill. The ocean’s a cesspool of plastic. Some more plastic containers and utensils with your take-out, sir?
One of the groups I represent, E—, has probably spent millions of dollars and thousands of man hours on passing plastic bag bans in California (plastic bags being a great contributor to the pacific garbage patch). They’ve historically been stymied at the state level by the plastic industry (chiefly, a shady trade group called the American Petroleum Institute), but in recent years have taken the strategy of trying to pass bans at the city level and have been very successful actually (I think they’re up to 45 cities now, including LA just last week). It’s good news but then again it’s outrageous that relatively poor nonprofits should have to fight for years to pass legislation that is so clearly in the public good. Is it that the public and elected officials are tragically myopic? Too zoned out and solipsistic to pay attention? Both, and also something about the rise of the corporate state, plutocracy, etc.
Plastic bags— It seems virtually impossible to wean anyone off them unless the government enforces it (as Bloomberg is doing with corn-syrup based sodas in NY, which I approve of). Even armchair and staunch environmentalists succumb to accumulating them.
The first culprit here is ignorance. Ultra large and powerful corporations and their lobbyists, through marketing, legal machinations, and other more insidious measures, consciously engender ignorance and then further exploit it. So the most marginalized and uneducated communities are the most susceptible to absorbing beliefs and habits grossly against their own (and the planet’s) interests.
There are still many stores in New York— liquor stores, for instance, some groceries— that will force you to take plastic bags, or at least try to.
The other major culprits, I’d wager, are willful ignorance, laziness, and fear— fear of standing out from the consumerist crowd, the legions marching proudly with their disposable coffee cups, plastic bottles, and plastic bags containing newly purchased goods.
The solution is for companies to be responsible for the entire longevity of the products they produce. With 8 billion people in the world, if you produce some tiny plastic nib, that’s potentially billions upon billions of these nibs getting into the environment. Companies must make parts and packaging out of earth-friendly biodegradable materials that quickly decompose after use, or otherwise be wholly responsible for the reclamation, recycling, and earth-friendly destruction of their products (but there is too much room for error and malfeasance in the latter).
–from June 2012