Richard Haratani: Cheap plastics defile our planet

February 1, 2014 

We are being slowly suffocated as effectively as a toddler in a plastic bag. Our warning-label-happy culture should add: Hazard – These products fill our planet with lethal garbage due to no accountability!

It’s time to assess the true cost of cheap plastic and plastic foam in our communities.

Example: There is a daily tsunami of resilient trash flowing through our public schools. These “cheap” products are often barely used before filling scores of garbage bins to be trucked to landfills all around us.

What are they? The ubiquitous plastic foam lunch tray. As a teacher I can attest that these trays are often touched only a few times from box to bin, then tossed in pristine condition to sit for centuries in the earth. Sadly, many school meals come prewrapped in their own plastic jacket and merely catch a short ride from server to seat on these trays. What feeds this interminable mountain of waste? Cost.

Paper and other biodegradable products are prohibitively pricey, but only because the true costs of using plastic and foam are not factored in by the manufacturing industry. The industry is not held accountable for resolving the waste issue. We and future generations will bear that burden. The makers and users of disposable and throwaway “convenience” products must be required to help offset the cost of their disposal.

Let’s level the landfill playing field and promote businesses doing the right thing. Give those who offer sustainable products incentives such as tax breaks. Better yet, we should levy landfill fees on those manufacturers who profit from filling them up.

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