The Plastic Conundrum: The Fight Against Plastics and Can We Really Eliminate Them Entirely?

August 2, 2011

How Plastic industry fights aggressively against plastic bans

So How do we really combat this plastic conumdrum?

The obvious choice would seem that it would have to come from the policy makers and ban them outright. However, with the plastic industry peddling the plastics the way tobacco makers did in the early 90s; the plastics are here to stay. According to Grist, the only solution to the plastic conundrum is prevention-not using them at all; however plastic industry does not look favorably upon that outcome.

Some of the methods used by the plastic industry are

  • Lobbying against any ban or fees imposed for use of plastic bags by retailers and local level
  • Filing lawsuits against recycled bag manufacturers
  • Filing lawsuits against cities and municipalities that ban plastic bags or impose a fine for using them
  • Spread misinformation about use of reusable bags. For example that reusable bags contain dangerous bacteria hazardous to health

Sounds so eerily familiar to the tactics that the tobacco companies used in the 90’s. And that’s because the companies that tobacco companies hired to lobby the congress are the same ones employed by the plastic companies  according to “The Plastic Bag Wars” by Kitt Doucette.

The policy makers and manufacturers of reusable bags face heavy opposition from American Chemistry Council (ACC), a conglomerate of petro-chemical companies whose interest in plastics is also merged with their livelihood.  For an extensive list of companies that make up  ACC, here is the link.

“They’re using the same underhanded tactics — and even using the same lobbying firm that Philip Morris started and bankrolled in the Nineties,” says Amy Westervelt, founding editor of Plastic Free Times, “They will stop at nothing to suppress or discredit science that clearly links chemicals in plastic to negative impacts on human, animal and environmental health.”


So how do we really get rid of plastics?

If there’s a beacon of light in this uphill battle, it’s  that the places that have banned the use of plastic bags or limiting their use with a fee, the outcomes have generally been very favorable. In Ireland, the fifteen-cents bag fees have cut down the plastic bag use by astonishing 90 percent.  Even D.C. has seen decrease use from 22 million bags to 3 million bags with a mere five-cent fee. Even China has started reducing their plastic bag consumption by 60 percent all within a year.

The movement to become plastic free have increased over time. In 2001, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to ban plastic bags and many cities are following suit. Concerned communities are enacting upon the public health and environmental hazards of plastics.

Small townships and municipalities are enacting local laws to ban plastic in their life. The fight against plastics have been mostly enacted by community leaders and local citizens worried about the environmental and health hazard of plastics which is giving way to success.


The Future of Plastic Free Life

Perhaps in the near future, we will see plastics as less worthy because the products are more damaging than the convenience it provides.  After all, changes can only come when the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. The prime recent example of this being tobacco. The backlash and the public perception of tobacco’s negativity has changed drastically within the last 10 years.

Although we as a society are miles away from being completely plastic-free, there are ways to reduce our dependence and consumption. Here’s a handy infographic provided by Reuse This Bag, a reusable bag company. You can read another take on plastics on sister site, “Planet Save”, ” and click on the infographic to get a comprehensive picture of plastics.

Source: Grist, Rolling Stones



Susie Kim-Carberry

Susie Kim-Carberry is a professional writer who's been featured in numerous publications, both in print and online. She started as a features writer for The Bayonet Newspaper in 1997 and studied print journalism at the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Media. Kim-Carberry is currently focusing on online media as a freelance writer, content producer and also serves as a site editor for Important Media. A self-confessed travel addict, her other equally important job is being a semi-crunchy mom to her two daughters. She tries to maintain a balanced life through her yoga practice and secretly dreams of being a Parisian one day.