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Weekly Challenge: Take it from the French, Reduce Plastics and Reduce Climate Change

Weekly Challenge: Take it from the French, Reduce Plastics and Reduce Climate Change

The French are picky. From baguettes to lipstick to that next Michelin star, it comes as no surprise that single-use plastic bags don't meet the haute couture standard.

As of July 1st, single-use plastic bags are banned in France. The country currently uses around 17 billion plastic bags, 8 billion of which are immediately discarded (The Local). 

An average plastic bag takes one second to make, is used for roughly 20 minutes and takes up to 400 years to degrade naturally.
— French Newspaper, The Local

And Paris’s wild younger cousin, Miami, has its own good news to share. Miami Beach has recently banned plastic straws from the beach. For my soda sippers, note that if you are caught with a straw, you can be charged with fines of $50 to $500.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy speaking on behalf of the United States' environmental agenda at the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy speaking on behalf of the United States' environmental agenda at the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Plastic production and consumption is a global problem from start to finish. Due to the nature of the industry’s dependence on fossil fuel, plastics are a direct climate change contributor. According to Stanford University, four percent of the world’s annual petroleum production is directly diverted for plastics production.  All of this fuel is used for products typically created for only one use. Samantha Staley of Stanford notes that plastics release at least 100 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and maybe as much as 500 million tons. To wrap your mind around how much impact the industry has, she states that plastic’s range of tonnage is the equivalent of 10 – 45 percent of the United States’ total emissions. 

After a plastic product's short lifespan of wrapping a sandwich, holding water, or lining boxes, they are immediately discarded. These discarded plastics persist in landfills, oceans, and other waste sites for over hundreds of years, and leach numerous toxic chemicals and contaminants into surrounding areas. Currently, 8.8 million tons of plastic are dumped in the oceans every year leading to a swirling garbage mound the size of Texas floating in the Pacific.

One Green Planet gets straight to the point – we cannot disassociate ourselves from this problem. The waste we see today is fed directly by our morning coffee pod, salad container, post-workout water bottle, our picnic’s plastic utensils. Small, daily disposals result in billions upon billions of waste. In addition, remember that big number I threw at you before? The 100 million to 500 million tons of CO2 produced from plastics could be much lower, if only we recycled more than the meager 7 percent of plastics that currently get a second shot at life.

What of the other 29 million tons of plastic that we threw out last year, 14 million tons of which were bottles and packaging? We burned it or tossed it in the landfill.
— Samantha Stayer

If we all reduced our consumption and upped our recycling rates, we could save the annual emissions equivalent of as many as 30 million U.S. emissions drivers by closing the plastics waste gap.

So I propose a weekly challenge: 

This week, we can all ban plastic straws and plastic utensils. If Miami can do it, we all can do it.

Below are some suggestions to help:

1)   Carry your own re-usable utensils!

2)   Pack your own work lunch. It’ll help you reduce your overall disposable plastic consumption (have you seen the post-lunch break trash pile-up?) and it’ll help you remember to bring your own utensils to work.

3)   Remember a reusable water bottle that you can refill, rather than depending on several drive through soda cups.

4)   And lastly, I encourage you to join in on One Green Planet’s #CRUSHPlastic social media campaign. Help us show our legislatures that we care about regulating disposable plastic production.


Want to know more? Check out my sources below!

Munzenrieder, Kyle. Miami New Times.  “Miami Beach has Banned Plastic Straws.” http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/miami-beach-has-banned-plastic-straws-6547654

Stayer, Samantha. Stanford Online. “The Link Between Plastic Use and Climate Change: Essential Answer.” http://alumni.stanford.edu/get/page/magazine/article/?article_id=30602

The Local. “What you need to know about France’s ban on plastic bags.” http://www.thelocal.fr/20160701/what-does-frances-ban-on-plastic-bags-actually-mean

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