Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Plastic Bag Bans

Plastic bags and waste plastic are a serious problem that must be addressed. These are all helpful at least. I find it completely amusing that local entrepreneurs are producing black market bags in China. I wonder how the glorious Chinese communist central government enjoys dealing with a citizenry with attitude?

It is time to make all plastic subject to a recycling charge on a per pound basis as we do with glass product. This has worked well for glass and has created a pool of dedicated scavengers collecting this type of trash as well as metal. Otherwise, all that glass would be lying about on the street.

That will also keep a lot from going directly to any landfill.

It is also time to end landfills. Any number of protocols exists that are superior and surely no more costly. Even a proper double lung incinerator is a fine solution as compared to the land fill. It also immediately scavenges the glass and metal for resale. The carbon is converted directly into CO2 without nasty intermediate steps as occurs in the landfill over decades. You may think this is a dumb solution, but our present use of landfills is dumber. It makes the problem pregnant for centuries.

I suspect that the double lung incinerator is also able to keep most municipalities quite happy and it will eliminate with a plastics charge, all such waste problems. The point I am making is that solutions are available and fairly easy. Our problem is both political and technical skill. The skill and authority of the buyer is typically modest and it is career damaging to make a bad call.

The point is we want all waste to be properly collected and destroyed if it cannot be recycled into new product.

The combination of 600 degree incineration with metal and glass recovery solves this problem nicely. If it becomes universal, the plastic disaster at sea eventually dissipates.

Does Banning Plastic Bags Work?

One year later, plastic bag use is down--but by no means gonein China. David Biello reports.


Thin plastic bags are the ultimate throwaway item. Used once to tote groceries, the thin white bags often go on to second lives as permanent pollution and an eyesore. So a host of countries, cities and other governments have banned them or forced consumers to pay for them. The largest such country, by far, was China.

regulations went into effect last June before the Olympics and the track record is mixed. Bai si wu ran or "white pollution" seems to have visibly declined but that may have more to do with tidying up garbage than any ban.

Even government officials admit the thinnest plastic bags, which were banned outright, are still in use, particularly in remote areas. Small workshops that churn out the contraband bags are easy to set up and hard to police. Small vendors, for their part, seem to think that the rule is no longer enforced and hand them out even in Beijing.

Yet, a survey by the International Food Packaging Association found that the number of plastic bags making their way into garbage had declined by 10 percent over the last year and the
Chinese government claimed that supermarkets alone reduced such bag use by 66 percent—some 40 billion fewer plastic bags to get caught in trees, riverbanks or elsewhere. The ultimate hope of the Chinese authorities is for the bags that are used to be recycled.

Plastic bags may not disappear anytime soon but they're getting harder to spot.

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