By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.
I know better, I really do.
But last night, with my husband sitting waiting for me in the car as I grabbed some groceries, I consented to have my purchases bundled into a single-use plastic bag: crushed tomatoes, tomato puree, sour cream, a couple of hoagie rolls, and two perfectly ripe rose d’anjou pears.
I never leave the house without a grocery bag: alas, after a visit to my chiropractor, that now held a couple of bottles of sherry, and some red wine. And thus laden, it was sitting on the floor of the car – across the street from where I now stood.
I could have handled those groceries, sans my bag – except for those pears.
This, dear readers, is why we need regulation. To save us from our worst selves.
That plastic bag, sitting across the table from me now, reminds me of my own weakness. I should have juggled my groceries, and just said no.
But I didn’t.
I could at this point go all defensive and point out – if the gossamer plastic bag was not available, the grocer would have wrapped it all up, as in my youth, in a paper bag.
Alas, she didn’t.
So, it’s back on me. And so I consented to dumping it all into a single-use plastic bag. Thus contributing to the worldwide plastics crisis.
Let’s Deal With Our Own Garbage
With that as a backdrop, I report a recent positive development.
Waste Management reports, according to Waste Dive, Waste Management and Casella confirm plastic export policies:
Waste Management wrote in a policy statement that the company “is not shipping plastics collected on its residential recycling routes and processed in its single stream material recovery facilities to locations outside North America.” Casella Waste Systems CEO John Casella similarly confirmed “100 percent of our residential plastics recycling volume will be processed and sold in the United States.” Resource Management Companies, Single Stream Recyclers and TFC Recycling also made the same commitment.
Now, cynics might say, wealthy countries have no choice in this ever since China banned recycling imports, thus throwing global recycling markets into chaos (see As Developing Countries Reject Plastic Waste Exports, Wealthy Nations Seek Solutions and Recycling Woes: Indonesia Sends Waste Shipment Back to Australia).Following an initial flurry of confusion, developing countries are no longer willing to serve as dumping ground for the world’s rubbish (toxic or otherwise, and regardless of what economists such as Lawrence Summers say they should do).
Nonetheless, again according to Waste Dive:
Plastics may still be getting exported to overseas markets, but major recycling companies say it isn’t coming from them. Responding to an audience question at WasteExpo on May 7, CFOs from Waste Management, Republic Services, Waste Connections, Casella Waste Systems and WCA Waste quickly confirmed they’re now keeping all collected plastics domestic.
This latest Waste Management development I see as a good sign. Too many of us believe in the tender ministrations of the recycling fairy or her kin – the technofix fairy: we don’t have to reduce our reliance on plastics or figure out how to reuse the waste we generate, as it all gets happily recycled or otherwise ‘fixed’ anyway (see Plastic Watch: Debunking the Technofix Fairy, Biodegradable Bags Don’t Degrade
But if we need to confront where that “recycling” actually goes to – perhaps we’ll see that it’s not much of a solution to the plastics crisis after all (despite what we might wish, see One Very Bad Habit Is Fueling the Global Recycling Meltdown).
Whilst visiting my Mom during August, in High Point, North Carolina, I frequented her local farmers market (a visit I wrote about here). Corn, tomatoes, peaches: yum. And when purchasing produce, I always eschewed plastic bags offered to me. And when so doing, was told by vendors, they’re not a problem: if recycled. And then, gently – I’m a Yankee, after all, and I was visiting southern climes- and only occasionally, I let those kind and well-meaning people know the actual state of play with recycling.
Reduce, reuse, recycle – repair. Not exactly an inspirational mantra. But the best we currently have.