It was good to read Charmaine Coimbra’s commentary addressing the plastic trashing of the oceans (“Stairway to plastisphere,” Nov. 7). As she points out, plastic is a major problem for the marine environment—and oceans cover two-thirds of the world. Of course, plastic refuse is also a problem for the land environment.
Our year-old countywide ban on grocery store plastic bags has been a good first step in controlling plastic pollution. Plastic bags are particularly difficult and expensive to handle as refuse.
Unfortunately, we are moving ever more rapidly toward greater plastic use and environmental degradation. The true cost of all plastics needs to be reflected in the marketplace, if we are to have any kind of “sustainable” economic system. The market cost of plastic must engender its removal and recycling as well as environmental restoration.
When there were fewer than a billion people on Earth and human waste was biodegradable, problems of human waste were limited to the immediate impact our waste had on human health. Now, human waste is rapidly accumulating and affecting our entire planet. More than a trillion pounds of plastic refuse are already floating (and sinking) in the oceans, and the onslaught is just beginning. Coimbra noted that the increase is now about 20 million tons a year.
We need more focus on recycling or stopping our plastic waste. Germany has developed a program that addresses recycling in a reasonable and effective way. Germany has a “green dot program for packaging (plastic, aluminum, and tin cans), destined for yellow bags and bins, paid for by the industries that produce it. They employ the trucks and drivers that pick it up and the workers who sort it. When it comes to packaging, the key concept is that the producer pays ... recycling cost is pegged to the actual cost of recycling these materials ... Germany is on track to make its 2020 deadline for closing all its landfills, since packaging is a major landfill component.” (from Plastic Ocean.)
Thank you for addressing this important issue. I hope our communities address this problem in a significant way.
-- Rogan Thompquist - Paso Robles