Can a Plastics Ban Make a Plastic Problem Worse?


I’m beginning to think that some businesses around me have completely missed the point of a plastics ban recently passed in my area.

Communities in my area recently passed a plastics ban. It prohibits the use of what is known as ‘single-use plastics.’ They include styrofoam containers for takeout and those flimsy plastic grocery store bags.

Some people, I realize, don’t like the return to paper bags at the grocery store or the use of paper straws. They argue that this means killing more trees.

But those who support the ban say plastics take so long to decompose that they’re causing a world pollution crisis.

I get both sides, and I do suspect that paper is the lesser of the two evils in this case.

But not everyone seems to get it.

Recently I ordered lunch at a fast-food restaurant I visit from time to time. The sandwich and fries I normally ordered used to come in a styrofoam container. It is now served in a thicker plastic container. How thick? If you’ve ever seen those plastic lunch containers in the picnic aisle of a grocery store that are just slightly thinner than typical Tupperware, that’s how thick.

You might get a better idea if you compare the thickness of an average water bottle. Environmentalists estimate it could take about 450-1000 years for water bottles to break down in a landfill. Depending on whom you ask, it could take those old polystyrene containers the same amount of time.

I went to the grocery store last night, and the cashier she didn’t use paper bags. Instead, she used thick plastic bags stamped with the word “Reusable.”

They’re as thick as those polyethylene envelopes many of us have received when we’ve ordered something online.

You better hope they’re reused! If those old plastic bags take up to 20 years to break down, these thicker bags could take a century.

So what are we accomplishing here?

If we’re replacing thinner plastics with thicker plastics that will presumably take even longer to decompose, how is this better?

How are we helping the environment? At best, we’re hoping those who get those more durable plastics marked “reusable” will actually reuse them.

And even if we do, we’re going to throw them away sooner or later. And then, unless we’ve used them until they’re falling apart, the timer begins.

That plastic will be around for a long, long time. It’ll probably still be there long after we’re gone.

I think we can do better. It seems to me we’re making a bad problem worse so far.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.