Because plastic is lightweight and inexpensive, plastic is found in a wide variety of products we use every day – bags, straws, bottles. Unfortunately, plastic is also a growing source of pollution accumulating at alarming rates in our rivers, oceans, and forests.
The pervasive and growing threat of pollution from plastics is an issue being tackled by many communities and businesses. Bans are in place in California and Hawaii and in major cities like Seattle, Austin, Mexico City, and Paris to name just a few. In Massachusetts, 81 communities regulate plastic bags. Furniture giant IKEA has announced plans to phase out all single-use plastics by 2020. Here in Connecticut, Westport was the first community to ban plastic bags in 2008; Greenwich and Stamford followed in 2018.
There have also been proposals in the state legislature to ban plastic bags statewide, and are likely to be more in the future.
Facts about pollution from plastics:
It is estimated that nearly 1 billion single-use plastic shopping bags are used in Connecticut each year.
Plastic bags are made from petrochemicals. Here in the United States, plastic bags are made primarily from natural gas, often fracked gas. By using plastic bags, consumers promote hydrofracking. The production of bags contributes to the CO2 in the air.
Very little single-use plastic is actually recycled. Plastic bags are not accepted at curbside recycling. In fact, when plastic bags are put in curbside recycling, they clog up the machines at recycling centers. Even when you properly dispose of a plastic bag the toxins can leach out of landfills and cause contamination that eventually reaches the ocean, or if your waste in incinerated it has polluted the air.
Plastic bags routinely turn into litter. You see this litter all the time in the form of bags soaring in the air or stuck in trees, plastic bottle lids peppering the streets. It slowly breaks down into smaller and smaller bits and ends up our rivers, our oceans, our forests, our bodies.
Plastic pollution is impacting marine life. It is estimates that 100,000 marine animals die each year from plastic bag pollution by suffocation or blockage from consuming bags.
Plastics are in our food chain. When the fish we eat are polluted with plastics, so are we.
Modernize Connecticut’s Bottle Bill in 2021
An expanded and modernized bottle bill would incentivize recycling, reduce litter, create
green jobs, and save taxpayer’s money.
Connecticut’s bottle redemption program has not been updated since the 1980s leaving
our state with the lowest redemption rate in the country. CT residents redeem only
around 50% of the bottles they purchase (a 37% drop from where CT was 15 years
ago). This means:
CT towns must pay to recycle the bottles and cans with already strained budgets. When China recently stopped importing recyclables from western countries, the U.S. was forced to create its own recycling economy. As a result, many municipalities that once made a profit from their recycling waste now have to pay instead. For example, the City of Stamford went from generating $95,000/year in revenue, to a $700,000/year expense in just a few years.
Bottles and cans recycled in the “blue bin” are more likely to be used as landfill than recycled. Single-stream recycling results in broken, mixed materials, which affects its value. Glass from these programs can cost as much
as $95/ton to dispose of while clean, separated deposit glass, has an average positive scrap value of $20/ton.
Litter is a bigger problem than in states with effective bottle bills. If the bottle bill is modernized, Connecticut’s litter abatement costs could be reduced by $200,000 per year.
About bans, regulation, and alternatives to single-use plastic bags:
Regulation of single-use plastics come in many forms including bans, taxes, and fees. Some localities prohibit retailers from providing non-compostable and non-marine degrading plastic check out bags to customers. Others require retailers to charge fees ranging from 5 cents per bag to 25 cents per bag. Others collect a tax on bags.
Reusable shopping bags which are widely available and are an excellent alternative to single-use bags as they are used over and over again.
Additional reading and more information:
Plastic Bags Must Go by Vanessa Villamil, Sierra Club Newsletter, October 2018
Stamford Votes to Ban Plastic Bags, Imposes 10¢ Fee on Recyclable Paper Bags by Greenwich Free Press
For more information or to get involved on this issue, please contact Samantha Dynowski at firstname.lastname@example.org.