Tuesday, July 05, 2016

When Packaging Peanuts are Outlawed, only Outlaws will have Packaging Peanuts

There a plethora of stories over the long weekend around a common theme of ocean plastic, so I'll just offer a few quick comments on them.
  • Oahu, Hawaii banned plastics bags a year ago, but surprisingly (?) the ban isn't working. The ban apparently covered thin plastic bags, and according to one advocate, "There's thick plastic bags because the stores replaced the thinner plastic with thicker ones. So we are seeing those on the ground. There are all of the food bags because those were never banned so there's really little to no change..." The ban specifically calls bags thicker than 2.25 mils (1 mil = 1/1000 of an inch = 25.4 μ) as reusable, so that appears to be the route that retailers are taking. With resin prices being so low, this option looks a lot more affordable than it did a few years ago.
  • California passed a referendum a last year to charge 10-cents for plastic bags, but that referendum will be revoted on this fall, kinda like a Brexit revote, I guess. But unlike a Brexit revote, there will also be a second related question: what is to be done with the 10-cent fee. Currently the retailers get to keep it (seriously?), but a group led by bag manufacturers wants the dime to support various environmental groups. I'm not sure how the exact question is worded, but I suspect that it might be done in such a manner as to confuse the issue.
  • San Francisco is stepping up their efforts to ban more styrofoam, only they don't include Styrofoam. That's probably a little confusing, but the confusion is from the fact that Styrofoam is a trademark owned by Dow for their brand of expanded polystyrene that is used to make rigid insulating foam - and only rigid insulating foam. (That's right, there is no such thing as a styrofoam coffee cup, or styrofoam food packaging or styrofoam egg containers or anything else.) Since Styrofoam is considered a durable object so everyone seems fine with it. However, the expanded ban does include peanuts, coolers, beach toys and more (see page 11+). I think the wording of the ban however, is going to be problematic. Look at Section 1605(c):
    "No person may sell, offer for sale, or otherwise Distribute within the City any Packing Materials made, in whole or in part, from Polystyrene Foam, as prohibited in subsection (a)..."emphasis added
    So does that mean that a shipping goods company that sells packing peanuts will now have to block access to their website to people from San Francisco? Will people be arrested for viewing such items? I think the definition of criminal solicitation just got a whole lot broader.
  • Lastly, greenwashing efforts to take advantage of ocean plastic are ongoing, with Adidas being the latest proponent. Using Parley Ocean Plastic (you know, the kind easily recovered from beaches rather than the much bigger and more challenging plastic thousands of miles offshore) and deep-sea gill nets, they have made 50 pairs of shoes, not as a kickoff effort, but as the entire product run. 50! Wow, that really reduces the amount of plastic in the ocean, and look at how much free publicity they get for it! Greenwashing, greenwashing, greenwashing.

Previous Years

July 5, 2011 - How to Torture a Chemist

July 5, 2011 - Bicycle Racing is a Team Sport...


Anonymous said...

If you let the retailers keep the money, won't that lead them to push more plastic bags out the door? Now you get your groceries in 10 bags instead of 5, and I doubt most people would care about the $0.50 difference. Not exactly what I call solving the problem...

Joe Q. said...

We've had a plastic bag fee in our area for some time (five cents per bag). The biggest effect may be psychological as the supermarket cashiers now ask each customer how many bags they would like to buy and ring it up as a grocery item. Plastic bag waste floating around the city is apparently way down.

I agree that making shoes out of ocean plastic waste is greenwashing -- but ocean plastic waste is still a major issue.

Joe Q. said...

Forgot to add that in our area, the retailers also keep the fee, but most donate it to charity.

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