Letters: What should we do with our waste plastic?

Johnson City Press • Apr 7, 2019 at 6:00 AM

We asked you with Monday’s Question of the Week to ponder and recommend solutions to the dwindling buyers for our plastic waste. Here are some of your responses.

Bring back glass

In the last few issues of the Johnson City Press, the problems arising from recycling plastics has come to the forefront. It seems that the articles are focused on targeting the consumers to reduce plastic waste. I feel that no one has addressed the real dilemma which is that it is not the consumers who are responsible for all the plastic goods: it is the manufacturers. It is the intention and overwhelming desire to make everything out of plastic.

In one article, the writer mentioned that if people drank tap water rather than buy bottled water, the problem could be lessened. Having worked in a convenience store I found the majority of plastic bottled drinks were soft drinks. Rarely did consumers buy water.

If there is a recycling problem, then perhaps companies in this country should return to glass bottles for items like ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, etc. I as a consumer did not ask for my condiments to come in plastic bottles rather than glass. I can remember when even milk came in glass bottles that could be returned, sterilized and used again. This world of plastic is a corporation "innovation" which has now adversely turned on them and consumers.

I believed that our plastic jugs were being recycled and took them by the bins full to the recycle containers only to now discover that they were being sent to China or ending up in landfills, or worse, floating in our oceans killing countless wildlife. If America cannot live without manufacturing plastic for their products, then why not try Australia's solution and recycle the plastic to build roads. We could have better roads and really solve the overabundance of plastics. Surely informed news authors and columnists have heard of this process.


Give consumers alternatives

Most of us would agree that plastic packaging has been overdone by agricultural/prepared food industries as well as product packaging of most items (Do batteries really need to be sealed in plastic?). In addition, retail outlets contribute their single use plastic bags to help customers carry their purchases.

Change is very difficult. Here in the USA, change typically comes with private investments, government action/investment, or legal action. Eastman’s new technologies to take on once unrecyclable plastics (Thursday’s JCP) may well pave the path forward. Lawsuits like those against tobacco companies, ExxonMobil for oil spills, coal ash clean up and now pharmaceuticals for opioid abuse is certainly one avenue of tackling the problem. The burden of responsibility can’t be completely shifted to the consumer because supermarket fruit comes pre-packaged in plastic containers, not the green cardboard containers I remember. Even potatoes come in plastic bags rather than paper. Therefore some responsibility must lie with the producers and packagers. Disposal has not been factored into the price of packaging and perhaps it needs to be.

Government does not seem to be able to tackle this problem because of campaign finance laws that allow the plastic producers (as well as carbon producers) to buy votes. Perhaps state or regional governments could provide regional tax incentives for private recycling and require that plastic packaging products contain some percentage of recycled materials. Plastic producers may complain, but it could be a reasonable way to move forward on the problem.

Consumer choice is limited, since most products are prepackaged, and reusable shopping bags can only do so much. Therefore the real solution will need to come from a combination of private and governmental sectors or possibly legal action which could take years.

Johnson City

Want to have your voice heard? Send a Letter to the Forum. Authors must sign their letters and include addresses and phone numbers for verification. Letters may be no longer than 300 words and will be edited for grammar, style and length. Send your submission to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717 or [email protected].

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