ENVIRONMENT - The United States uses about 100 billion plastic bags every year. By 2050, a report at the World Economic Forum predicted there will be as much plastic in the world’s oceans as fish.
Since the U.S. government is the world’s single-largest consumer of goods and services, its decisions on what to buy could make an enormous difference. The General Services Administration (GSA) recently requested public input on a proposed rule to act on Biden’s Executive Order 14008 which stated:
“It is the policy of my Administration to lead the Nation's effort to combat the climate crisis by example – specifically, by aligning the management of Federal procurement and real property, public lands and waters, and financial programs to support robust climate action.”
With its purchasing power, the GSA has the potential to play a significant role in reducing single-use plastics by all areas of the federal government and, by demanding alternative greener solutions, through its ability to reduce the use of unnecessary single-use plastics including packaging and shipping materials.
Needless to say, the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) and American Chemistry Council (ACC) both urged their members and their suppliers, their flacks and employees, to vociferously protest ANY restrictions on their industry. Both organizations submitted comments to the GSA stressing the negative environmental effects and increased costs to taxpayers that a ban on procurement of single-use plastics would cause.
And there will be many others who – whether mired in habit, kicking back at government- regulated anything or peripherally benefiting from the industry – will try and argue that the American economy is best served by a vibrant oil industry…
However, the future of fossil fuels has been balanced against life as we know it and found wanting.
Continued manufacture of single-use plastics should be banned outright, not only for purchase by the GSA but throughout the world, and their use be phased out over a period of not more than two years, preferably significantly less.
Idealistic – yes.
Look at the development and manufacture of the Covid vaccine as an example of what can happen when people set their minds to solving a problem. Few tried to analyze it into oblivion; in places all around the globe they sprang for the brass ring to save lives.
Yes, it wasn’t perfect and the roll-out got tangled up in politics. Nevertheless, it was a magnificent achievement. Should we do anything less to save the world?
As I started to write this, it was 107 degrees outside, with heat and fire warnings up and down the west coast. Climate change is real. It is an emergency and we must act now.
ANY permission to manufacture and/or use single-use plastics only encourages the demand for fossil fuels which we desperately need to keep in the ground so there is a future for our children and grandchildren.
Oil producers, plastics manufacturers and those who depend on them will oppose such a stance but they’ve knowingly been working towards the planet’s destruction for more than 40 years during which time they could have made changes to reduce their impact on the planet.
But chose not to.
Companies could have developed environmentally-safe disintegrating plastics like the Chinese are now doing. Why not?
Greed and short-sightedness.
Companies could have invested in 100% biodegradable sustainable compostable packaging and made a fortune while helping mankind.
But no, they wanted to prop up their existing supply chain which is killing the planet.
Companies could have jumped on the bandwagon and come out heroes so we should NEVER allow them to portray themselves as victims.
They are not.
We, the people of the United States and those around the world, and our children and grandchildren are.
Furthermore, these companies must be held responsible for disposing safely of existing and any single-use plastics produced prior to an outright ban.
Technologies exist for this. If it’s not cheap and easy, well tough.
They’ve had it cheap and easy for far too long.
They have made millions and millions off of us all while destroying our land and water and air.
Since they chose NOT to act as good corporate citizens in the past, then they MUST be given tight parameters to mend their evil ways and held fully accountable going forward.
Individuals in any company trying to avoid the shutting down of the single-use plastic industry or extending its life for profit deserve just retribution, should be held personally responsible and fined 95% of their personal wealth, no ifs, ands or buts.
And don’t feel sorry for the investors. They’ve known these companies’ evil ways. They chose to profit off them so now they can suffer with them.
Once this is addressed, the GSA needs to move on to attack other end-products of the fossil fuel industry and, if strict regulations are imposed now, there will be a rush to comply.
Otherwise it will be another 40 or more years and there will be no quality of life left for our grandchildren.
(Liz Amsden is a contributor to CityWatch and an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions. In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today's world.)