Australia has a fragmented policy that, for instance, stresses reducing plastics at beaches. On a more advanced level, they are attempting to ban microbeads. However, the phaseout is voluntary. But the most interesting part is that they are including bioplastics in the plastic phase out plans, acknowledging that bioplastics are not the great solution most people think they are. While it’s nice that they aren’t petroleum-based, their compostability is misleading. Despite being (mostly) plant based, they don’t break down in standard compost facilities, instead requiring higher heat and sunlight. Furthermore, they muck up recycling streams when they get included with other plastics and it may be impossible to tell them from other plastics because they are included in the catchall number 7 “other” plastics category.
New York State is banning (by Jan 1, 2024) those little bottles of toiletries used in hotel rooms. (But they were so cute!)
There are many bans in effect or going into effect in European countries, but the EU as a whole is taking on some measures including a target for recycling of 90% of plastic bottles by 2029 and 50% of plastic packaging by 2025.
I don’t know if it’s coincidence (I doubt it) that Mattel announced earlier this month the “Barbie Loves the Ocean” line. In their writeup, Inhabitat says it’s made from 90% recycled ocean-bound plastic parts sourced within 50 kilometers of waterways in areas that are lacking formal waste collection systems. But like Lego’s announcement a couple of years ago that it would make parts from recycled plastic, this is somewhat misleading in that it is only a small part of their production. (To be fair, according to Mattel, “The launch is in line with Mattel’s goal to achieve 100% recycled, recyclable or bio-based plastic materials across all its products and packaging by 2030.”)
Image from Mattel website
Perhaps more significantly, they also announced a takeback program called PlayBack. Though less press-worthy at first glance (which, after all, is what gets press – and therefore notice), it’s their start of what’s called Extended Producer Responsibility, a concept that’s becoming less conceptual in which manufacturers take responsibility for their products throughout the product’s lifetime, including the end of life, so that fewer things end up in landfills.
While Plastic-free July is well and good, the idea of a plastic-free month strikes me as similar to meatless Mondays. Why only one month of no single-use plastics or only one day a week of no meat?
This UN banner from back in May gets it right: “No More Single-use Plastic.” Period.
We can all use some positive news these days, especially on the environmental front in which science is considered political opinion, denial is an alternative fact and the word “protection” in the Environmental Protection Agency’s name is a cynical leftover from its original mission. And while I don’t want to gloss over the issues – there isn’t enough paint in the world to do that – I offer here The Distillery, a weekly (or thereabouts) selection of posts to help offset the PTSD of our current nightmare.
The posts I pick will be “real” in the sense that they aren’t pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking, as fun as those can be, but are evidence of EcoOptimism.
Yeah, we’ve all heard about the UN IPCC report that gives us 12 years to get our shit together. And then we got that surprisingly frank White House “National Climate Assessment” that, despite the Trump regime’s best efforts to bury it, made headlines. Plus, of course, there was devastating evidence of climate change already rearing its head in the form of a sometimes record-breaking series of hurricanes and typhoons.
But fortunately for the holidays – and perhaps for our sanity and our therapy sessions – we can snag some happier news. So I started compiling EcoOptimistic articles a few months ago, though some of it is from earlier in the year, when I realized that, now more than ever, we need to counterbalance the daily litany of the-end-is-nigh headlines.
It’s not that I don’t believe those headlines. Rather, it’s that I won’t give in to the fatalism of them. Many of us, sometimes – OK, often – including me, feel the despair coupled with the frustration and anger at those who avert their eyes, who won’t listen to fact or reason, who pursue blind self-interest, or who rationalize it in desperate ways. (No, it won’t cost jobs.) But letting them rule the news is infuriating and letting them determine our future is unacceptable.
Perhaps one of the most (eco)optimistic events of the year was the surprise election of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to the House of Representatives. Her “Green New Deal,” which combines environmental issues with job issues, is creating a politically appealing scenario that’s garnering more and more support with both local officials and voters.
And combined with this poll, perhaps the political “climate” may have turned a corner.
EcoOptimism’s take: Um, OK. Not entirely sure what to make of this, but nevermind.
While it’s a bit cliché to refer to the younger generation taking the reins, there has been some notable news on that front, too. The suit by a group of teenagers against the federal government is continues to move forward despite the administration’s efforts to get it thrown out of court. A Swedish 15-year-old made headlines at the recent UN climate change conference, lecturing the officials, “You are not mature enough to tell it like it is.”
I’ve mentioned before that Teen Vogue has been consistently taking up environmental topics, most recently taking up the issue of ocean plastics here and here. (See more on that topic below.)
RENEWABLE ENERGY IS COMPETITIVE WITH – AND SOMETIMES CHEAPER THAN – FOSSIL FUELS…
One of the first items in that Earther post above notes the falling prices of renewable energy. “Beautiful, clean coal” is not cutting it financially despite the administration’s best efforts. And there are some significant milestones accompanying it. It’s been happening all year, not just in the last few months.
EcoOptimism’s take: Yes, we may need our rose-colored glasses here, but it’s evidence of – don’t get too choked up here – “yes, we can.”
SINGLE-USE PLASTICS ARE IN THE CROSSHAIRS…
In some previous years, I’ve nominated a word of the year. (2012, 2013, 2014) This year, Collins Dictionary did it for me, choosing “single-use.”
Spurred by a graphic and very disturbing video of a turtle having a plastic straw removed from its nose, the nascent movement to regulate or ban SUPs got a jump start. EcoOptimism has been charting the international movement.
Along with bans have come alternatives. We’re not talking about bioplastics, which while interesting have their own issues, but about reducing or replacing demand.
EcoOptimism’s take: There isn’t a much bigger lemon than all that plastic waste and, while we may have mixed feelings about roads (unless they’re for non-fossil-fueled vehicles and don’t encourage more sprawl), here’s some lemonade.